Today (19TH) staff in the virology laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary (GRI) hosted a visit from Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick.
The Minister was there to observe the testing process for coronavirus after the lab started testing for possible cases.
The GRI lab is one of two centres covering the whole of Scotland. It is testing 75% of the possible cases in Scotland with 220 samples tested since it began processing them last Monday - all negative.
Clinical Lead West of Scotland Specialist Virology Centre Professor Rory Gunson said: “The roll out of the Scottish based diagnostic service for the new coronavirus is the outcome of an exciting collaboration between Scottish laboratories and colleagues at Public Health England. Its implementation has reduced the testing time from days to just a few hours.
“This service development will help reduce the anxiety of patients who may be worried they have the virus, will aid the management of suspected cases and will enhance the national public health response to this emerging virus.”
When a clinician suspects a new coronavirus infection, a nose, throat or deeper respiratory sample is taken and sent to either the lab at GRI or the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, which is the second centre.
Mr FitzPatrick added: “Our NHS is well prepared to cope with any suspected coronavirus case, and the testing in Glasgow and Edinburgh is part of that preparation, enabling Scotland to deliver quicker results.
“Although all Scottish tests have so far been negative, we are prepared for the high likelihood that we will also see a positive case.
“We have a proven track record of dealing with challenging health issues and have been preparing for this possibility since the beginning of the outbreak.”
After the experience of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, a series of diagnostic tests were developed in the UK to detect any member of the family of coronaviruses.
With the first reported publication of the genome sequence of this new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19, working with WHO and a global network of laboratories, further specific tests for this virus were rapidly developed.
The efficient roll-out of this testing regime in Scotland is the result of the close co-operation between Scottish laboratories staff and staff in Public Health England. This forms an important part of our joint efforts to combat the threat from this new virus SARS-CoV-2.
Health boards are also exploring the ability to undertake community-based testing where this is appropriate rather than require people to travel to a clinical setting.
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Pic: Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick (centre right) meets Clinical Lead West of Scotland Specialist Virology Centre Professor Rory Gunson (centre left) and staff from the virology lab at GRI