New machines to boost virus testing

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Norway already has been testing far more people for the Corona virus than most other countries, and was quick to start offering drive-in testing earlier this month. Many have been turned away, however, because of capacity limitations that now are about to be lifted.

Akershus University Hospital in Lørenskog will be getting a new machine on Monday that will speed and expand capacity for Corona virus testing. So will Oslo University Hospital Ullevål. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons/Hans-Petter Fjeld

Newspaper Aftenposten reported this weekend that two new machines will enable 10-times the testing currently underway. The first arrived at Oslo University Hospital Ullevål on Friday and another will arrive at the large Akershus University Hospital northeast of the capital on Monday.

Each will be able to test 1,440 people a day, and they’ve been made available in record time. “We’re in an extraordinary situation and we have to cooperate in an extraordinary manner,” Daniel Malarek, chief executive of Roche Diagnostics Norge, told Aftenposten.

Relieving uncertainty
The Swiss drug and biotechnology giant Roche had developed and delivered the machines that already were in Norway but hadn’t been used for Corona screening. After a crisis meeting between Norwegian drug and medical suppliers and Health Minister Bent Høie last Tuesday, it became possible to send the machines to the two large hospitals and therefore greatly expand testing and get results faster.

While Roche was praising Norwegian health officials for streamlining acquisition procedures, while Høie was pleased that private sector business also was willing and able to respond quickly to testing demand.

More testing will not only relieve uncertainty among Norwegians worried about whether they’ve been infected with the virus but also allow health officials to better assess the spread of the virus so far.

Corona can be deceiving, since so many of those infected don’t seem to be sick, nor do doctors know enough about the virus yet. They do know that it’s highly contagious, though, which is why Norway is in shut-down mode at present with all schools, day care centers, colleges and universities, many public institutions and other businesses closed. Norwegians have been all but ordered to simply stay home in an effort to hinder further spread of the virus that already has infected more than 1,000 Norwegians and killed three as of Saturday night.

Still limited testing for now
Those ordered to stay at home in quarantine for at least 14 days because of foreign travel or suspected exposure to the virus were still being told during the weekend that they won’t be tested unless they actually fall ill. Now that may change, as testing capacity expands.

As of Friday, testing was only being conducted on certain patient groups and health care personnel who develop respiratory ailments. “The most important thing now is simply that people stay home to avoid infecting anyone else,” Christer Ekker Larsen, spokesperson for Oslo’s health services, told newspaper Dagsavisen.

All Norwegians who have been traveling outside the Nordic area at any time since February 27 are being asked to remain home for at least 14 days, and their household members as well.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund