Testing Passengers is Doable but Capacity Limited

Photo/mbl.is

Vala Hafstað

At a meeting yesterday, the Icelandic government agreed to continue preparations for the screening of passengers for the novel coronavirus upon arrival, beginning June 15. A final decision regarding whether these plans will in fact be implemented won’t be made by the government until the chief epidemiologist has turned in his opinion of a report on the matter. His opinion is expected this weekend, and a final decision will be made next week, according to Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir, mbl.is reports.

It is now clear that to begin with, the Department of Microbiology at Landspítali National University Hospital will have the capacity to analyze only 500 samples a day, instead of 1,000 as previously thought. To increase the hospital’s capacity for analysis, additional staff, facility and equipment is needed, the report of a project management team states.

Svandís suggests that possibly, an agreement will be made with deCode Genetics to analyze samples as well.

From Keflavík International Airport.

From Keflavík International Airport. mbl.is/Eggert Jóhannesson

Following are the main points made in the report:

Based on current plans, the capacity to analyze 1,000 samples a day won’t be in place until mid-July at the earliest.

A sufficient number of swabs for testing must be in stock. Only 10,000 of them are available at present.

The uncertainty regarding the number of expected passengers this summer could jeopardize the project, should their number exceed the capacity for testing.

Regardless of the project, facilities at the Department of Microbiology need improvement.

The report estimates that five hours after the last sample is taken at Keflavík International Airport, results should be ready. Samples that arrive at Landspítali after 5 pm would have to be analyzed the following day, unless extra staff is available.

The cost per sample would be between ISK 23,000 and ISK 50,000 - decreasing as the number of samples goes up. The government would most likely cover the cost to begin with, but tourists may be charged for the tests later on in the project.

Some amendments to laws are needed regarding the responsibility of flight operators concerning the preregistration of passengers.

Rules must be clear regarding refusing passengers entry, if they fail to comply with the disease prevention measures.

Work procedures for testing patients, tracing transmissions, quarantine and isolation must be in place with the continued operation of the coordination center of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management and health authorities.

Finally, the report states, tourists must be provided with additional information.

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