From Iceland — Huge Breakthrough In Search For COVID-19 Testing Swabs

Huge Breakthrough In Search For COVID-19 Testing Swabs

Published March 27, 2020

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6,000 nasal swabs required for COVID-19 screenings have been discovered at Landspítali hospital. This is a huge breakthrough as Iceland has been experiencing severe difficulties obtaining swabs in recent days.

Speaking to Morgunblaðið, the head physician at the hopsital’s department of medical microbiology and virology, Karl G. Kristinsson, described the surprise discovery of the swabs in the department’s supply store as a “huge relief.”

In further good news, 20,000 nasal swabs provided by Icelandic manufacturer Össur have been approved for use in COVID-19 screenings. Having previously stated that the swabs were unusable, yesterday deCODE announced a dramatic U-turn following a second round of tests.

As reported, the first round of quality assessments on the Össur swabs led experts to believe the swabs were not fit for COVID-19 screenings. But flaws were found in the way the first tests were carried out and when the assessments were repeated it was concluded that the swabs were, in fact, usable.

The discovery at Landspítali hospital and U-turn on Össur’s swabs are hugely positive news for Iceland. Due to skyrocketing global demand, Icelandic health authorities have struggled to obtain more swabs and have had to scale down testing programmes, particularly the deCODE drive-through screenings. An expected shipment of 5,000 swabs was reduced to 2,000 and is still yet to arrive. In his Morgunblaðið interview, Karl G. Kristinsson also revealed that Landspítali had been expecting 10,000 swabs from the U.S. but “they went instead to the highest bidder.”

Testing and quarantining are central to Iceland’s response to COVID-19. Over 10,000 people have been screened for the virus. In fact, Iceland has tested a higher proportion of its inhabitants than any other country in the world. However, it’s worth remembering that due to Iceland’s small population all per-capita statistics should be taken with a pinch of salt.

The high level of testing being carried out in Iceland has been pointed to as the reason for relatively slow spread of COVID-19 in the country. Read more on this positive news here.

Correction: It was previously reported that Ossur had manufactured 20,000 swabs, this is incorrect. They were not made by the company, Ossur had a stock of swabs for their own use and provided these to deCODE and the health authorities. They cannot currently produce COVID-19 swabs domestically.

Tune into our daily COVID-cast for more on recent coronavirus-related developments in Iceland.

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