As quickly as the industry appeared, it also disappeared: there are only four commercial providers of corona tests left. At the height of the corona crisis, there were a few hundred.
The Outbreak Management Team reported last week that the pandemic is over. Large-scale testing is therefore no longer necessary, is the advice. That seems to be the prelude to the final end of the testing industry.
Commercial test streets sprouted throughout the Netherlands in 2020, to test for the hospitality industry, nightlife, for travel or for companies that wanted to know whether their staff was contagious. But who were the test entrepreneurs? How profitable was their business? And what did they do when the question disappeared again?
Travel agency, hairdresser and physiotherapist
A tour of the NOS shows that all kinds of entrepreneurs threw themselves into the test sector. There were entrepreneurs from the healthcare sector among them: a dentist, physiotherapists, a general practitioner. But also a travel agency and a webshop.
Some started because they simply saw a gap in the market, others because their work was lost due to the crisis.
“The idea came to me when I got corona myself, in October 2020,” says Monique van Blokland. At that time, De Culemborgse had a hairdressing salon and an events company. “I wanted to test my employees preventively before the events, but found out that it took days.”
That can be done faster, Van Blokland thought. Moreover, Culemborg did not yet have a commercial test street. Van Blokland decorated one himself in an empty party room. It eventually became an important source of income at a time when hairdressers had to close and events were halted. “I was excluded from the corona support because the company was still so new. We still broke even through testing.”
Million dollar profit
While testing was a welcome life buoy for Van Blokland, it was a source of sparkling profits for other entrepreneurs. Annual reports that they filed with the Chamber of Commerce show that their companies were running better than in the years before the corona pandemic.
An employment agency that started selling PCR tests in Amersfoort built up around 700,000 euros in accumulated profits in two years. A travel agency from Amsterdam that also offered tests increased its business assets tenfold (from 10,000 euros to more than a ton) in the years when there was hardly any travel.
An even bigger blow was made by Lead Healthcare, a Baarn company that provided personnel advice to healthcare institutions before the pandemic. In February 2020, a subsidiary was added for services during the corona pandemic.
In 2021, Lead Healthcare grew into a giant in the test country. The company became the main supplier for Fieldlab and took care of the tests for the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam. From June that year, Testing for Access was added.
Later, the company also started testing for travel certificates. In total, an operating profit of 9.6 million euros remained in 2021, 7 million euros more than the year before. Mainly due to the success of the company’s corona test branch, Lead Healthcare founder David van Hartskamp writes in the 2021 annual report.
From the spring of last year, the demand for tests started to decrease, Monique van Blokland noticed. Testing for entry stopped in March and fewer and fewer countries demanded a negative test result. “Then I switched completely to organizing events,” says Van Blokland. “It’s super nice, this is what I prefer to do.”
At Lead Healthcare, too, testing activity has receded into the background. In addition to the old activities, the company has focused on mediating for self-employed persons in the healthcare sector and has started developing its own software.
The remaining test providers focus on travelers. There are still a few countries left that still require a negative test result, China for example.
- OMT: testing for corona no longer necessary, illness ‘is part of it’
- Commercial test lanes closed out of annoyance about too few GGD referrals
- Preventive testing for access, who pays the bill?