Differences in COVID-19 testing policies in European countries

In the second wave of the corona crisis, knowledge organisation Vilans again mapped out the government measures to combat the virus in long-term care in eight countries. How are the effects of the pandemic limited in nursing homes in Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands? In addition to the increasing pressure on healthcare workers in all of the countries studied, the difference between the testing policy of governments also stands out.

After summer, in preparation for the second corona wave, how did European governments deal with visiting arrangements for institutions, testing policy, personal protective equipment, monitoring of infected and deceased clients and compensatory measures for organisations and employees? Vilans has made a second overview of the situation at the request of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.

No ban on visitors

“We see that all the countries surveyed do not choose to close institutions, in particular nursing homes, and declare a complete ban on visits,” said Henk Nies, Vilans Director of Strategy and Innovation. “An ethical debate has taken place in all countries as to whether the negative effects of the measures outweigh the positive impact on the spread of the virus, disease and number of deaths.”

In all countries there are now possibilities to visit clients, even if they are infected. Nies: “Visiting relatives can visit their loved ones completely “covered”, but not in large numbers. In Denmark, for example, one dedicated family member can visit. As a result, difficult discussions take place within families about which family member that may be. In Denmark and Belgium, visits outside the confines of the nursing home are encouraged and various forms of visitation have also been developed. ”

Difference in testing policy

The testing policy and the execution of the tests appear to differ between countries. “In a few countries, employees and nursing home residents are tested preventively,” says Nies. “For example, (new) residents are tested in France and Germany. In England, employees can be tested weekly and residents every 28 days. In Belgium, employees of nursing homes are preventively tested by a signal value of more than 100 infections in 100,000 inhabitants within the municipality. In the Netherlands, we see that a number of care organisations set up their own testing sites and cautious experiments are being conducted with rapid tests. England supplies test kits to nursing homes and couriers bring them to the lab after they are taken. In Sweden, citizens can test themselves with tests delivered at home. ”

Increasing pressure

Staff are a major concern in all countries surveyed. Where there are normally shortages, there is now even greater uncertainty over having sufficient employees in most countries, with the possible exception of Denmark. Nies: “In the coming months, we will continue to monitor this bottleneck and the corona policy in the eight countries. We invite anyone with knowledge of the developments in one or more of these countries to share that knowledge with us, correct us if necessary and join the community we are creating. The aim is to inspire policymakers, scientists, but especially people in daily healthcare practice to do the right thing in these complicated times.”

United Kingdom: Emma Scale, Deanne Mitchell, SCIE,
Belgium: Lennert Noppe, Flamish Agency for Care & Health
Denmark: Anne Bækgaard, Ministery of Health, department of Long Term Care, Amy Clotworthy, University of Copenhagen
Germany: Klara Lorenz, Department of Health Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science Malte Behmer, Patricia Ex , Bundesverband Managed Care e. V.
Angela Braubach, Bundesgesundheitsministerium
Norway: Heidi Gautun, Oslo Metropolitan University
France: Esther Hogenhout, Embassy of the Netherlands in France
Netherlands: Ministery of Health, Welfare and Sports

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