Innovative Covid-19 testing introduced as number of cases continues to rise

With the number of positive cases of coronavirus in Scotland rising, testing of patients has begun through a surveillance network of Scottish GP practices and ‘drive through’ tests in Edinburgh.

41 GP surgeries have started to test some patients with flu-like symptoms even if they have not travelled to an area where coronavirus, which can cause the respiratory disease Covid-19, is known to be spreading.

As of Thursday March 5, 1,256 individuals have been tested in Scotland, of which six were found to be positive.

Dr Catherine Calderwood, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, told the BBC, “Scotland is well-prepared for a significant outbreak of coronavirus” and while not everyone with coughs, colds or shortness of breath will be tested, “this is a sensible step to take as a precautionary measure to give us an early warning of community transmission.”

A ‘drive through’ testing centre has opened at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

This appointment-only service in NHS Lothian asks patients to drive directly to the testing area without interacting with anyone else en route.

It is aimed at people who do not have any symptoms but have been referred by NHS 111.

Specially trained healthcare professionals in protective clothing will ask individuals to wind down their car windows and a throat swab will then be taken.

Each patient will receive information on self-isolation and be asked to return home, where they should receive results within 24 hours.

The testing service was modelled on a similar service in Parsons Green, established by Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust to help residents test “safely and quickly” and close to their home.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Calderwood added, “The labs in Glasgow and Edinburgh have good capacity for testing at the moment but we have also expanded our different methods for community testing in all of our health boards.”

While Scotland is currently in the containment phase of the outbreak, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that containing the coronavirus spread is looking less and less likely, and numbers could rise very rapidly.

According to Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, planning for the worst-case scenario indicates up to 80 per cent of the population could become infected and four per cent of those may require hospitalisation.

Scots scientist, Dr. Kate Broderick, who is originally from Dunfermline and now based in California, has said her team at pharmaceutical giant Inovio are three months ahead of schedule in the development of a vaccine.

The team have completed successful tests on animals such as guinea pigs, rabbits and primates and were aiming to start the first clinical trial in in early summer, though this has now been brought forward to April.

This will be just four months from the virus first appearing in China to producing a vaccine ready for human trials.

The trial will involve testing the vaccine on around 30-50 healthy volunteers in America to check that it is safe and provides the correct type of immune response.

Ultimately the researchers are aiming to make the Covid-19 vaccine available in the UK, but priority will be given to those countries suffering the worst outbreaks.

Immediately after the trial in America, trials will commence in South Korea and China.

Image: via tasnimnews.com

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