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The Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) says its laboratory began to analyse coronavirus samples around the clock on Monday, 30 March 2020. (Teemu Salonen – Lehtikuva)

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THE HOSPITAL DISTRICT of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) has announced it will substantially ramp up its laboratory testing capacity for the new coronavirus.

HUS on Monday said its virology and immunology laboratory began to analyse coronavirus samples around the clock seven days a week on Monday, 30 March. HUS will additionally acquire some testing capacity from private service providers.

“The capacity for coronavirus testing has been increased considerably as the epidemic has progressed. The daily maximum was 250 samples in February. We were able to analyse 500 samples a day in early March and now over 1,000,” highlighted Lasse Lehtonen, the director of diagnostic services at HUS.

The samples will be collected at drive-through testing sites and care facilities.

The infection is confirmed in a laboratory by detecting the virus in the anterior nares sample by a method known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The analysis takes several hours and requires not only special expertise, but also the utilisation of high-tech equipment, according to the hospital district.

HUS on Monday also announced it will begin antibody testing to detect past infections caused by the new coronavirus in a couple of weeks. Its laboratories will initially be able to conduct hundreds of such tests daily, but the capacity can be increased if necessary.

“The antibody tests can be conducted on, for example, health care professionals to make sure we can assign staff accordingly,” told Lehtonen.

Up-to-date information about the criteria for coronavirus testing can be found here. HUS has reminded, however, that the diagnosis of a physician is principally not necessary, as patients with minor symptoms who are not part of a risk group can have the disease at home.

“You should contact a health care unit or the medical helpline only if your condition is such that the home-care instructions are not enough. You should avoid placing a needless burden on the medical helpline and health care centres to make sure people in need of urgent care can receive help sooner,” it explained.

People who believe they should be tested for the virus are generally instructed to ring their own health care centre or, if the centre is closed, the medical helpline.

HUS has reported 843 of the 1,352 laboratory-confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Finland, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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