Epidemiologist advocates free self-tests: ‘Costs are too high a threshold’

In the past seven days, RIVM registered an average of 27,295 new cases per day, the highest average ever.

At least three in ten people who tested positive in early January contracted the corona virus by visiting or receiving visitors. A self-test beforehand can help, but you have to pay for that in the Netherlands. And with large families, that is a lot of money.

poverty fund

The poorest are helped, for example through the Red Cross, the Food Bank, the Salvation Army and the Poverty Fund. “In 2021, we will distribute 750,000 self-tests to minima through our network of local aid organizations. The first shipment went out as soon as reliable self-tests came onto the market on a large scale, the rest was distributed in the autumn,” said Irene Verspeek, spokesperson. of the Poverty Fund.

“But there are many people in the Netherlands who are not known to an aid organization because they are close to the poverty line, but for whom a self-test is too expensive.”

Schoolchildren and students

The Poverty Fund receives the tests through the Ministry of Health. That also provides the self-tests for education. Students in groups 6, 7 and 8 can take a free self-test at school twice a week, just like teachers at primary schools and teachers and students at secondary schools, MBO and higher education.

Would it help if more people could take a free test without having to go to the GGD? Probably yes, according to the RIVM.


The behavioral unit of the RIVM surveyed more than 3,200 Dutch people in November 2021. Having self-tests at home lowers the threshold for purchasing one, and it also helps if the tests are available for free, the conclusion states.

Making sufficient self-tests available to residents of the Netherlands – such as in the United Kingdom – free of charge and easily accessible could contribute to the earlier detection of the virus and possibly also to limiting socio-economic health differences. .

Minister does not want

Hugo De Jonge, Minister of Health until this morning, however, announced at the end of December that he did not intend to go along with it. “They are already free for very large groups, for example for students and teachers in education and for customers of the Food Bank. And a lot of people can pay for them themselves. They also do this with millions at the same time at the supermarket and drugstore,” said De Jonge against Nieuwsuur.

Free self-testing for everyone was not an option. “There is no such thing as free. Ultimately, someone has to pay them,” De Jonge refers to the taxpayers.

The ministry’s forecasts show that approximately 37 million additional self-tests will be required for education in the coming months, in addition to approximately 15 million at, among other things, minimum wage levels. In addition, the 352 municipalities will receive another 8 million free self-tests for people with a minimum income or benefits.

Financial threshold too high

They are therefore entitled to a free self-test, but if it is up to Alma Tostmann, epidemiologist at Radboudumc, self-tests are more often provided free of charge.

“With a family you are tens of euros further and that is not for everyone. Then no test, they might think. You should remove that financial barrier. If you give the advice to do a self-test, you should also make it available for free,” says Tostmann.

Free for everyone

As far as the epidemiologist of the Nijmegen hospital is concerned, the concept of minimums can still be stretched a bit.

“Even if you don’t live in poverty but also don’t have a lot to spend, you really don’t spend your money on a self-test. While those tests are very important. Testing every day is really not necessary. But if you test per week, you cream off a large part of the infections.”

‘Intensive care costs higher’

In the summer of 2021, every household received two free self-tests from the government, but most people have already finished them.

“That was also quite thin. For example, I have a family with three children. Why only two? Tests at the GGD are free, but you can only have them done if you have complaints. And to have a PCR test you have to put in a lot of effort and sometimes travel far.”

In France and Germany, this is possible on every street corner, says the epidemiologist. “In the Netherlands, there is still some profit to be made in that area. These measures cost the government money, but if you can control the pandemic in this way, it also yields money. It costs much more if someone ends up in intensive care.” .”

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