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New testing strategy as of 23 November

On 14 November, the Interministerial Conference of the Ministers for Public Health decided to adapt the testing strategy. As a result of the scaling up and optimisation of PCR testing capacity in our country**, from 23 November 2020 we will once again be testing all asymptomatic high-risk contacts via PCR, starting on day 7 after the high-risk contact.** All the necessary steps were taken during the week of 16 November, meaning that the first high-risk cases will be available for sampling from the week of 23 November on. 

In practice, this means that the high-risk contacts of an infected person who do not show any symptoms themselves will be sent a code for sampling via contact tracing. If the high-risk contact took place within a group setting (e.g. schools or businesses), the coordinating doctor for the group is responsible for generating this code. Members of the public returning from a red zone abroad must fill in a PLF that evaluates the risk incurred. If they need to be tested based on their movements during their stay abroad, they will also receive the activation code via text message. Apart from these cases, a GP can of course still create an activation code on the basis of their own risk analysis or for those cases where the above procedure could not be followed. 

Individuals can go to a triage and sampling centre with this code, where the sampling for a PCR test will be done, on day 7 starting on the day after the last high risk contact or return to Belgium. To this end, they can make an appointment via the appointment tool accessible at mijngezondheid.belgie.be. There is also the possibility to link the test to the 17-digit code generated by the app Coronalert. This ensures that the test result is also received in the app, which is necessary in order to alert unknown high-risk contacts via the app. If this test is positive, the high-risk contact will be placed in isolation for at least 7 days from the day the test was taken. If this test is negative, the high-risk contact can come out of quarantine, but we stress the importance of being extra vigilant up to a total of 14 days after the day of the last high-risk contact (taking into account applicable exceptions for care workers). 

If no test is taken (e.g. child under 6 years of age), or if the test result is not available in time, asymptomatic high-risk contacts can come out of quarantine after 10 days, commencing the day after the last high-risk contact. This quarantine must then be followed by a period of 4 days of being extra vigilant. 

On the website mijngezondheid.belgium.be, asymptomatic high-risk contacts can download a quarantine certificate for their employer, and can also consult the results of their test. We are following this procedure to relieve the administrative burden on GPs. 

The official validity period of the quarantine certificate is still 10 days, to cover all situations. 

For members of the public who have had a high-risk contact, or who return from a red zone abroad having had higher-risk movements, this implies a quarantine of at least 7 days, followed by 7 days of being extra vigilant (i.e. 7 + 7).