News

Coronavirus testing

Published: 19 Feb 2020 08:54

Scottish facilities deliver quicker results.

Coronavirus screening laboratories in Glasgow and Edinburgh have tested 202 possible cases in the first 10 days since testing began in Scotland.

Combined with the previous tests at the Public Health England facility in Colindale, London, it brings the total number of tests from Scotland to 290 at close of play yesterday.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick observed the testing process during a visit to the laboratory at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary (GRI).

When a clinician suspects a new coronavirus infection, they take nose, throat and deeper respiratory samples, and send them to the facilities at the GRI and Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

The Scottish facilities, which started operating on 10 February, mean test results can be returned quicker.

Mr FitzPatrick said:

“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.”

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 PHE. 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.”

Background

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.