Do you have symptoms? Get tested!
Call 0800-1202 for an appointment to get tested. This number is available 7 days a week from 08:00 until 20:00 hours. Go to government.nl for more information.
- Call your GP if you are experiencing severe shortness of breath or have a high fever, or if you are worried.
- In a life-threatening situation, call 112.
Testing policy for healthcare workers
It is still very important for healthcare workers to get tested immediately if they have mild symptoms. The testing policy for healthcare workers (in Dutch) takes into account optimal staff deployment, the health of the employees, and the risk of infecting patients or clients.
Once you have been tested...
Stay home until you get the results. If you also have a fever or shortness of breath, the other people in your household must also stay home until the results of the test are known.
Do your household members also have symptoms? Then they can get tested too.
If it turns out that you are not currently infected with the novel coronavirus, you and your household members can go outside again. Once the test confirms that you do not have COVID-19, you can go outdoors and go back to work, unless you are too ill to do so. Children can go back to school and/or childcare. If the symptoms do not go away, if your symptoms get worse, or if you develop new symptoms, then call your GP. In a life-threatening situation, always call 112.
If it turns out that you do have the novel coronavirus, you and your household members must stay home. The Municipal Public Health Service (GGD) will tell you what you need to do, and what the people around you need to do. More information about the household routine and what you should do if you have COVID-19 is available here.
There are two types of tests.
One test determines if someone has the novel coronavirus at that time, and the other checks if someone has had the novel coronavirus in the past.
Test to determine if you are infected now
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test
This is the most commonly used test. A smear is taken from the nose and throat with a cotton swab.
This test is used by the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs). It takes about 24 to 48 hours before the results are known. Rapid PCR tests are now also being used that give results within an hour. These tests are intended for situations where rapid diagnosis is absolutely vital. For example, if someone has to be treated in hospital for heart failure or organ transplant. This type of test is not intended to be used in test lanes for general COVID-19 diagnostics.
Test to determine if you were previously infected
This test determines if there are antibodies against the novel coronavirus in your blood. It involves taking a blood sample. At this time, this test is only used for research purposes by selected laboratories, to see if people are producing antibodies against the novel coronavirus. These tests are used for research at a population level to see whether people in the Netherlands are building up immunity against the virus.
Rapid diagnostic tests are not reliable!
Planning to buy a serological test or ‘rapid diagnostic test’ from a commercial provider to see if you already had the virus? That is not a good idea. There are many of these ‘rapid diagnostic tests’ on the market. Research shows that these tests are not reliable (results published in Dutch). So far, none of the rapid diagnostic tests examined by RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment are suitable for diagnostics in individual patients or for home use. For that reason, RIVM is cautious about processing requests for evaluation of rapid diagnostic tests. The Health and Youth Care Inspectorate (IGJ) has also published a report about this. More info at IGJ. The World Health Organization also discourages the use of rapid diagnostic tests.
Coordinating role for RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment
The Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) and hospitals administer the tests. RIVM draws up the guidelines and protocols for testing and for source and contact tracing. The quality of the tests being offered is monitored closely. Right now, RIVM is investigating:
- Which antibody test gives the most reliable result.
- Whether having antibodies does in fact mean that you can no longer contract the virus, and that you will no longer become ill from the virus. People with mild symptoms may have fewer antibodies, which could mean that they are not fully protected against the virus.
The Dutch testing policy is based on advice from the Outbreak Management Team.
RIVM is involved in evaluating polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and serological testing. We are often asked whether test methods that have been submitted are in fact suitable for diagnostics.
The Serology Task Force has provided an overview (in Dutch) of the validations performed for various tests intended for diagnosing SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Testing capacity depends on people and materials
When we refer to testing capacity, we are talking about many different aspects. By testing according to careful guidelines, we are ensuring that sufficient facilities are available to use resources efficiently.
Materials are needed to perform the test, such as cotton swabs, packaging materials and personal protective equipment for the workers taking the samples. Materials are also needed for the analysis in the lab: fluids, filters and components in the analysis equipment, as well as the devices themselves. And people are needed: people to administer the tests, transport them to the lab, analyse them in the lab, make the appointments, and communicate the results.
Developing alternatives tests
RIVM is also working with national and international laboratories to find possible options to supplement the current tests. Besides the current PCR tests, which detect the genetic material of the virus, we are also looking at other types of tests. One type is antigen tests, which detect the presence of virus proteins; another type is serological tests, which detect the presence of antibodies in the blood. By using these tests, for example in combination with the current test, more people can be tested to find out whether they have the novel coronavirus (or have had it previously).
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use a rapid diagnostic test to test myself?
RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment is researching COVID-19 rapid diagnostic tests that are being offered for home use or by third parties at a specific location. These are not self-tests, but rapid diagnostic tests (‘sneltesten’ in Dutch). So far, the quality of these rapid tests has been insufficient to test on individual patients or to use at home. The results are not reliable. Users may become unnecessarily worried, or they may be wrongly reassured. The Health and Youth Care Inspectorate (IGJ) has also published a report about this. Tests that can be used at home to check whether you are infected with a disease are prohibited if they have not first been assessed by a notified body. More info at IGJ. The World Health Organization also discourages the use of rapid diagnostic tests.
Are alternative testing methods being investigated?
RIVM is working with national and international laboratories to find different testing methods that require other laboratory materials. Besides the current polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which detect the genetic material (ribonucleic acid, RNA) of the virus, we are also looking at other types of tests. These are tests that detect the presence of virus proteins (antigen tests). RIVM is also looking at tests that detect the presence of antibodies in the blood (serological tests). With the help of these tests, for example in combination with the current test, we may be able to test more people to find out if they have (or have had) the coronavirus.
Can I have a test to see if I have already had the virus and if I have antibodies against the novel coronavirus?
No, people are already being tested to a limited extent as part of research into the spread of the virus in the Netherlands. Right now, RIVM is investigating which antibody test gives the most reliable result. We discourage people from having their blood tested for the presence of antibodies against the novel coronavirus. This can give a feeling of false security. RIVM is currently investigating whether the presence of antibodies also means that you can no longer get the virus, and that you can no longer become ill from it. People with mild symptoms may have fewer antibodies, which could mean that they are not fully protected against the virus.