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Govt aims to test up to 300 people a day

A new Covid-19 testing facility will test up to 300 persons per day, the minister for Civil Contingencies Samantha Sacramento said as she set out the Government’s plans to increase screening within the community.

The targeted testing will be aimed initially at those who work in the health and care professions and the results will offer the Government an insight into how the virus is spreading which, in turn, will determine the route out of lockdown.

The new facility, which is situated at the University of Gibraltar, will use the fast screening test that has been developed in the UK by Gibraltarian Microbiologist Dr Nick Cortes and his team at Hampshire Hospital.

Teams from the University as well as Public Health Gibraltar, the GHA, Civil Contingencies have been working at “lightening speed” over the last few days to set up the facility, Ms Sacramento said. 

“We are aiming to increase testing over the coming weeks to 300 tests per day with results available within 24 hours,” she said.

“This large volume of testing - which is about 1% of the population per day - will allow us to track the rate of infection within the community and help us decide whether the lockdown measures can be further relaxed over the coming weeks.” 

“It will also serve as an early warning system if the virus transmission starts to increase in our community.”

“This new lab we have set up locally will enable us to test the community vigorously with a quick turn-around time for the results.” 

The set-up of a new testing facility follows the targeted sampling of frontline workers.

In the last fortnight 1375 swabs have been taken from such workers of which 925 have been processed and 450 are pending. 

From this exercise, there have been four confirmed cases, of these, two remain active. Both are home and well.

The new lab will work in partnership with the new contact-tracing bureau, with the overarching aim of reducing the risk of further transmissions of the virus within the community.

“The targeted testing of individuals and the contact tracing of positive cases will be key factors that will enable us to unlock the lockdown,” Ms Sacramento said.

The Contact Tracing Bureau Team will be informed of all new cases of Covd-19.

A clinical member of the team will contact the person who has tested positive and inform them of the positive result. They will then carry out a case interview.

“This interview will collect important information about their current symptoms and past medical history,” Ms Sacramento said explaining that contacts during the infectious period will also be identified.

“The person will be advised to self-isolate. It is very important that this advice is followed as it will ensure that the virus is not transmitted to anyone else.” 

“The Contact Tracing Team will then track and call those people who have come in to close contact with the infected person. These contacts will usually be well, and unaware of the contact until they receive this call.”

“They will be informed that they have been in contact with someone with Covid-19 and asked to self-isolate for 10 days from the date of the contact. This is because the contact may be incubating the virus in those ten days as if the contact then become infected with the virus they may transmit it to others before they develop symptoms.”

“By isolating all close contacts, we prevent onward transmission of the virus.” 

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