Antigen travel

Belgium is to accept rapid antigen tests from travellers

When travelling abroad, PCR tests remain valid for 72 hours and rapid antigen tests for 48 hours 

Viviane Vaz for Id International

(Brussels, 22 OCT 2021)

Travellers visiting or returning to Belgium will no longer need to take a Covid-19 PCR test: a rapid antigen test from the closest pharmacist will be enough. That’s what the Belgian health ministers decided this week.

The Belgian health authorities aim to ease the workload of general practitioners. Since mild illnesses such as cold and flu are very common at this period of the year, they feared having to test anyone who shows symptoms of Covid-19.

As from November, Belgian residents and tourists will be able to choose to go to a pharmacy or a test centre to take a rapid antigen test. Regarding travelling abroad, PCR tests will be valid for 72 hours, while antigen tests for 48 hours. 

Pharmacies were already doing rapid antigen testing for people who attend a mass event in Belgium. The results are known within 15 to 30 minutes. “Pharmacists are proud to be complementary to doctors and screening centres and thus to be able to make a contribution in the fight against the coronavirus”, said the president of the APB, Koen Straetmans, to the Belgian press.

Easing travel costs and procedures

The decision also comes after 14 organisations in Belgium sent an open letter to the Health Minister, Frank Vandenbroucke, urging for rapid antigen tests acceptance to ease travel procedures. The Belgian Association of Travel Management (BATM) and the Brussels Airport Company, among others, highlighted that inconsistent measures imposed by each country and regions were making the air travel process extremely difficult.

The cost and bureaucracy of PCR tests add huge burdens to…businesses looking to travel. These are important considerations in preparing for a successful restart,” says the letter.

The organisations reminded that rapid antigen testing is as effective as PCR testing in reducing the risk of cross-border transmission.

Restarting international aviation will energise the economic recovery from Covid-19. Along with vaccines, testing will play a critical role in giving governments the confidence to reopen their borders to travellers. For governments, the top priority is accuracy. But travellers will also need tests to be convenient and affordable since the cost of PCR testing can completely alter the economics of travel,” added the letter.