Got some pesky symptoms or planning a trip away from the Netherlands? You’ll need a coronavirus test for that. But how and where, exactly, do we go about doing it? Are antibody tests available? And what actually happens? We’ve got answers your top 10 burning questions about getting tested for coronavirus in the Netherlands.
The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has made testing cost-free and available to the public. The idea is that the more testing happens, the more the spread of the virus can be controlled and monitored. But there are still many questions about how exactly testing works left unanswered. We’ve sorted through all your corona testing queries, and found the answers you’ll want to know.
1. Just how sick do I have to be to get tested?
Testing with complaints
It’s important to get tested if you are experiencing any of the key indicating symptoms of coronavirus.
Generally, you can get tested if your complaints include:
- cold-like symptoms
- a stuffy nose
- a runny nose
- a sore throat
- a cough
- sudden loss of smell or taste.
Many of these symptoms may seem common, regardless of whether the virus is present. After all, people had been bothered by sore throats and sneezing long before coronavirus existed. However, it’s better to get tested and know for sure, then ignore it and risk spreading it to your friends and family. Testing appointments can be made at https://coronatest.nl/.
Testing without complaints
Since December 1, you can also get tested for coronavirus regardless of whether symptoms are present if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
You may realise you’ve been in close contact due to the GGD’s source and contact tracing or notification via the CoronaMelder app, for example.
According to Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge, that testing without complaints should be done five days from the time of contact. The days between should be spent in quarantine.
2. When should I get tested?
The virus usually has an incubation period of 5-6 days (that’s the amount of time it takes to start showing symptoms). Because of this, the recommendation is not to get tested too soon. If possible, get tested on the third day of symptoms for the most accurate results.
The risk of taking the test too soon is that the test result could be falsely negative. Alternately, by the fourth day of complaints, your body is already breaking down the virus, so again the accuracy rate decreases. The prevailing advice is this: if you strongly believe you have coronavirus but your test result is negative, get tested again after a few days. In the meantime, stay home.
3. Where do I go for testing?
There are over 80 drive-through testing locations in the Netherlands. When you schedule your appointment, they will assign you to a testing location. You’ll receive this information by text message or email. Be sure to wear a face mask to the testing station, and do not use public transport to get there.
4. How do I visit a drive-through without a car?
You’re a sensible person in the Netherlands who rides a bike, and it’s not always easy or affordable to borrow or rent a car. Sound familiar? Fear not. If you’re unable to access four wheels, walking or cycling is allowed at most test locations. Call first to make sure.
5. What exactly is being tested?
The GGD uses a test called a PCR. It’s a molecular mucus test that gets sent to the lab for examination. You’ve seen it — it’s the long swab they put in your throat and way up your nose, the one that makes you grimace when you see it on the news. The test takes about 10 minutes. It’s not as bad as it looks. You can handle it.
Keep in mind, the PCR only tests whether the virus is present. It doesn’t show whether you’ve had it in the past.
6. When will I see my results?
After your test, you’ll receive a message from the GGD as soon as it’s ready. It’s generally less than 48 hours. They will contact you as soon as possible, so don’t bother trying to reach them by phone.
If you want to confirm a negative test result with your own two eyes, you can view your results online by logging into the coronavirus test website using your DigiD. You’ll be notified when your web results are ready — it’s usually within two days.
7. Are antibody tests available?
If you suspect you may have had coronavirus in the past but were not tested for it, you’ll probably be curious whether you have antibodies. This test is called a serological test and is conducted through a blood sample.
The government currently only uses serological tests for research purposes. While it can be done in some instances, the RIVM advises not to have the test on your own, as it can provide a false sense of security. There are, however, some private providers that can conduct a serological test for a fee.
8. How does contact tracing work?
The GGD conducts a contact investigation within 24 hours for patients infected with COVID-19. The test follows the RIVM’s national guidelines to work out where you might have picked up the infection. They also want to determine who you could have unknowingly infected, and will ask you to provide a list of everyone you’ve been in contact with.
They will instruct you and the other members of your household to stay at home for 10 days, and give specific instructions on what else to do. These instructions include notifying your huisarts and employer of the test results.
You ‘close contacts’ are the people you’ve been in contact with for more than 15 minutes without maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres — people like your hairdresser or neighbour. Or people you may have been in contact with for less than 15 minutes but with a higher risk of transmission — like a person you’ve kissed. These contacts will be asked to stay home as much as possible for the next 10 days.
‘Other contacts’ include those with whom you’ve shared the same space for 15 minutes or more while maintaining a 1.5-metre distance — like a colleague or classmate. The GGD will give them advice on what to do. They’ll make sure any of your contacts can get tested quickly if they develop symptoms.
9. Will I need to get tested if I travel?
If you’re returning to the Netherlands from travel in an ‘orange risk’ area, a coronavirus test is required. You’ll also be asked to self-quarantine for 10 days, regardless of whether symptoms are present. The government has a useful quarantine check tool to understand your obligations to quarantine from specific countries.
If you develop coronavirus symptoms while on holiday abroad, the RIVM recommends contacting a local healthcare provider and getting tested if possible. If your test results are positive you will not be allowed to return to the Netherlands until you’ve been free of symptoms for 24 hours. You’ll need to remain in isolation until then.
The GGD doesn’t issue declarations confirming a person is free from COVID-19, as they only test people who are symptomatic. However, some commercial parties do offer this service for a fee.
10. Should my kids get tested?
If you suspect your child may have been infected with coronavirus, they can receive the same test as an adult. The government provides a factsheet specific to requirements for children, but essentially,
- Young children (aged 0 – 6) do not need to be tested if they have COVID-19 symptoms. If your child is very sick, contact your GP, who will decide if a test is needed. If tested, keep your child at home until you’ve received the results.
- Children aged 7 – 12 do not need to be tested for cold-like symptoms. However, they should be tested if they are experiencing:
- a fever or shortness of breath;
- develop symptoms following contact with a person who has tested positive.
- Children aged 13 – 17 must stay home if they are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, and get tested. Appointments can make via coronatest.nl.
Remember to take your child’s identity document to the test.
Do you still have questions about COVID-19 testing? Leave us a comment below, and be sure to visit government.nl.
Feature Image: Gustavo Fring/Pexels