Faced with the increasing number of tests, screening centers are saturated. But this is also the case in some laboratories. With an average, in Belgium, of 30,000 tests to analyze per day, the work is colossal, including on the administrative level.
Our reporters Julien Modave and Julien Raway visited a laboratory in Liège which, given the context of the coronavirus, is running at full speed. The 15 people who work 13 hours a day are not enough to encode the 1,600 tests received the day before. “We encode non-stop, non-stop, non-stop to manage these administrative tasks which are enormous, sighs Jérôme de Marchin, biologist. We are all on our knees “.
Authorities demand mass screening without providing necessary tools to laboratories
Belgium has been testing an average of 30,000 people per day since last week. “In the context of tracing, we have a lot of screenings, and it becomes really excessive, describes Jean-Marc Minon, head of the laboratory at CHR Citadelle. It’s linked to the authorities’ request for mass screening. However, we are not equipped to do it “.
“We do not get out”
In all testing centers, it’s the same problem: too many people present without symptoms. When a child is positive, the whole class, but also all the parents, of all the pupils with their siblings are tested. “After screening this group of people, we will probably find people who are asymptomatic carriers, but perhaps carriers for 4 to 6 weeks, explains Jean-Marc Minon, head of the lab department at CHR Citadelle. Because we always find viral DNA. And these people are going to leave in a new screening bubble, so we don’t get out of it. “
The members of the lab fear the winter period: “It will get worse”
In the CHR Citadelle laboratory, we are looking for technicians and secretaries to encode the many requests. “We have a thousand PCRs (nose tests, editor’s note) per day, I do not even dare to imagine how much we will be during the winter period, because to this will be added the flu and other diseases. The situation will get worse“, explains Pierre-Alexandre Olivier, head of the Lab department at CHC Mont Légia.
Cherry on the cake: patients harass the laboratory by phone
The response times are increasing everywhere. This represents an additional anxiety for the patients who, therefore, call constantly to obtain the results as quickly as possible.
The federal government is asking hospitals to further increase their screening capacity. But in the field, we wonder about the merits of the method, while for several months the average number of positive tests has remained stuck at around 3%.