Equipment for the testing of COVID-19 has been assembled next to the Algarve Stadium, in the Parque das Cidades between Faro and Loulé. The idea is that suspected patients, after being referred by doctors, can be tested for COVID-19 without leaving their car, avoiding social contact and thus minimizing the risk of spreading the new virus.
It is a response from the National Health Service (SNS) that starts operating today. The project involves a team of 60 people working in shifts, and for now, it will be operational for 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
The testing facility was presented this afternoon to journalists, at a press conference next to the Algarve Stadium, where the two tents to collect samples for the tests on COVID-19 are set up.
As Paulo Morgado, president of the Algarve Regional Health Administration (ARS) explained to journalists, the centre is in a strategic location, next to the Regional Public Health Laboratory, where the analyses will be carried out.
“Citizens sent by the hospitals in the region will be tested here, especially the hospital in Faro and those referred by the doctor's helpline. Our health authorities in the region can also send patients to be tested here. We are talking about patients who are not admitted to the hospital, nor are they serious cases”, he explained.
Nuno Marques, president of the Academic Centre for Biomedical Research and Training in the Algarve (ABC), an institution that, in partnership with public entities, operates the new Coronavirus screening drive-in, listed the advantages. “People who come here have no contact with anyone else, they come in their car, and in the end they go home. Thus, we are decongesting hospitals and, on the other hand, we managed to reduce the risk of contagion from third parties” through social contact, especially at a time when an overload scenario is expected.
Upon arrival, a doctor will check that the suspected patient is properly signed up in the National Epidemiological Surveillance System (SINAVE). Then, the process continues in a second tent where material is collected for analysis.
Those who haven’t been referred should not attempt to access the centre, not least because there is a GNR control point. “These are the rules at this stage because it could not be otherwise. All the other centres in the country, especially in the north, are functioning like this. They only test patients referred by doctors. And not because of people's spontaneous will. Testing only makes sense when there are symptoms. This is a rigorous test, it is the only one approved by the World Health Organization and it is the only one we are doing in Portugal. But this test, in fact, only detects the virus when the person has the disease”, justified the head of the ARS.
For now, "it will operate between 9 am and 9 pm every day, in this first phase, although, if necessary, it is prepared to operate 24 hours a day", guarantees Paulo Morgado. “We are scaling capacity. Right now, we can go up to 300 tests a day, but we already have a plan to increase this capacity with the support of several private institutions and the University of the Algarve to see if we can increased the ability to test our patients” he added.