deCODE to Screen People for COVID-19

Vala Hafstað

Kári Stefánsson, CEO of deCODE Genetics, has offered to screen people in Iceland, who are experiencing symptoms, for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, mbl.is reports. “It is essential to find out how the virus spreads in Icelandic society,” he states.

There is no need for the people who will be screened to have recently arrived from risk areas, or to have been in contact with those who have.

“We want to help Landspítali [National University Hospital], which has limited capacity,” he states. “We have the equipment, a lab equipped for work with viruses, and people who are experts at this. What we want to do, in addition to what Landspítali has been doing, is to do a sequence analysis of the virus in those who turn out positive. The idea behind that is to find out how the virus is mutating.”

The effort aims at gaining a better understanding of how the virus behaves in society.

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir and Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason welcome Kári’s initiative, calling it an important contribution to public health and disease prevention.

For a while this weekend, it looked like Kári’s plans would not go ahead, since the Data Protection Authority and the Ethical Review Committee thought the action might require a permit as a scientific study - something Kári disagreed with. The matter has since been resolved, and no permit was required, since this is defined as clinical work, not a scientific study.

Kári is now ready to go ahead with the work, set to begin mid-week. He states that everyone must do their share in the fight against the virus, and this is his contribution. 

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