Inflatable labs primed for mass virus testing

Local | 13 Aug 2020 12:04 pm

Sixteen "cocoons" have been neatly arranged in the large gymnasium at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Centre with protective layers, wires and network cables laid on the wooden floor. Hong Kong's "Fire Eye Laboratory" is about to be put into use, Xinhua reports,

To cope with the resurgence of virus patients, Hong Kong launched a screening scheme to offer free and voluntary testing to all residents. Three testing service providers from the mainland, including BGI, will participate in the mass testing.

According to Cao Sujie, director of the Fire Eye lab in Hong Kong, an inflatable lab is convenient for transportation and installation, environment-friendly and energy-saving, and fit for rapid and large-scale testing.

The mobile Huoyan (Fire Eye) laboratory of BGI was built in 12 hours.

The lab materials left Shenzhen, where the Chinese biotech company was based, at 4:00 p.m. on August 6, and arrived at the sports center at 9:00 p.m.. Construction of the 16 air-inflated film chambers were completed at 3:30 a.m. on August 7.

Debugging has been done on the first five chambers as of Tuesday and testing equipment will be installed within the week.

Cao said the lab can cope with 100,000 nucleic acid tests a day once in full operation. "If using mixed-together testing methods such as three-in-one or five-in-one tests, the testing capacity can be expanded to 300,000 to 500,000 samples a day."

To achieve the target, 600 testing staffers taking three shifts a day will be needed, Cao said.

Hong Kong has been battling a third wave of infections since early July, with over 4,000 confirmed cases and more than 60 deaths so far. Universal screening has become a priority, Xinhua reports.

Cao said that negative samples from the lab will be destroyed, while positive ones will be sent to testing facilities under Hong Kong's Department of Health for confirmation.

In Chinese folklore, the piercing fire eyes enable Monkey King to see through all disguises of monsters. The Fire Eye labs developed by BGI, have been used worldwide for large-scale nucleic acid testing without manual intervention.


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