Danish newspaper Berlingske interviewed Debes Hammershaimb Christiansen, who is a geneticist and researcher at the Faroese Food Authority. His swift efforts are part of the reason why the Faroe Islands is among the countries in the world that conducts the most COVID-19 tests per capita.
In the Faroe Islands, citizens who report even mild symptoms of coronavirus are tested. Many other countries report a lack of testing capacity, but this is not the case in the Faroe Islands.
At all three hospitals, the Faroese health services offer a “drive-in test” for citizens who report symptoms of COVID-19.
It is a twenty-year-old virus outbreak in the Faroese salmon that has paved the way for the comprehensive testing capabilities on the archipelago of the North Atlantic.
Back in 2000, the salmon population was hit by a virus called ILA. At that time, test equipment was purchased and a laboratory built to investigate if the fish were affected by ILA virus. The virus hit the Faroese salmon industry hard, and 90% of the fish were exterminated. Since then, the Faroese salmon industry has continued to screen the fish for new outbreaks — on a yearly basis, they do 10-15,000 tests.
As the coronavirus spread in China, Debes Hammershaimb Christiansen investigated the possibility to use the ILA virus test methods to test for the new coronavirus.
“I had a clear belief that we could quickly set up our machines and tests that were used on salmon to also be used in the case of human testing for COVID-19,” says Debes Hammershaimb Christiansen,
This was confirmed in January, when Chinese researchers shared information about the coronavirus genome. At the end of the same month, the Faroese government gave him permission to start redirecting the test devices to look for COVID-19.
“It is an incredibly inexpensive and effective method. The most acute patients receive an answer within 3-4 hours after being tested and others within 6-8 hours,” says Debes Hammershaimb Christiansen.
He also explains that they continuously train new lab technicians to be able to test as many as possible. In recent days, more than 300 people have been tested per day. As of today, there are 122 reported cases of corona in the Faroe Islands, and 2,482 citizens have been tested. This corresponds to about four to five percent of the total population.
Pál Weihe, who is a Faroese professor and expert in public health, welcomes the great testing possibilities in the Faroe Islands.
“We continue to contain the virus and believe it’s important to know as accurately as possible who and how many are infected so that we can quarantine and stop the spreading”, he says.
In the Faroe Islands, the health authorities track every single corona case and every person that has been in contact with an infected person. The experience of a previous virus outbreak helps. ”
You can follow the Faroese Covid-19 cases on www.corona.fo.
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