Stella Lapiņa, Chairman of the Board of the Central Laboratory, admitted that the situation has escalated this week, as the demand for testing for Covid-19 using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method has increased significantly in almost a few days.
For example, on January 4, the Central Laboratory tested 4,064 test samples per day, and on January 17, 10,028, as well as another 912 schools in the class pool test.
At the same time, she stressed that the “Central Laboratory” has not reached the maximum capacity, yet testing volumes can be increased by 30-40% to 15,000 tests per day.
In addition to the existing 40 Covid-19 sampling points, five more will be opened from 17 January, and additional sampling capacity will be added daily.
“By opening one additional sampling point, the record is filled in 10 minutes, because many customers sign up, also using the electronic recording option. In order to meet the demand this week, we need to open 10 more acceptance points,” Lapiņa explained.
She said the biggest challenge was the free availability of medical staff to ensure sampling. “This is exactly the ‘narrow bottle neck’ at the moment, where a congestion is forming,” said Lapina.
According to Lapiņa, the Ministry of Health and the National Health Service are considering the possibility of prioritizing population groups for which a state-funded laboratory examination for Covid-19 infection is performed.
“Currently, the real solution to improve the situation is to allow students to return to school after class quarantine by self-testing for antigens instead of PCR tests,” said the chairman of the board of the Central Laboratory.
At the same time, she emphasized the need to understand all people who have symptoms, who have Covid-19, who want and are entitled to a Covid-19 disease certificate only after receiving a laboratory PCR test.
Asked whether the need for a referral from a family doctor for a test could be a solution to laboratory stress, Lapiņa said that it would greatly overload the work of GP practices, which are already working in very intensive working conditions due to the growing incidence of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, Bior’s public relations specialist Ilze Dimante emphasized that the queues could be significantly shortened if students and teachers who need a PCR test to return to school in person do not apply for it in the usual way – by phone or electronically.
The laboratory offers students and teachers the opportunity to pass the PCR saliva test without prior notice so that they can return to school on the seventh day of quarantine.
“Central Laboratory” and “E.Gulbs Laboratory” also offer such an opportunity.
TV3 news reported this week that the queues for Covid-19 laboratory tests are partly due to people who do not want to be vaccinated but are often tested in the hope that they will be infected and obtain a disease certificate.
Currently, the queues in the laboratories for the Covid-19 test are so long that you may have to wait up to a week to find a vacancy. If the predictions for even higher Covid-19 waves are met, the unavailability of tests is expected to only materialize.
Representative of E.Gulbis Laboratory Džineta Dimante pointed out that currently the demand for PCR tests significantly exceeds the testing capacity. Therefore, it is important to assess more carefully who really needs laboratory tests and which patients could use self-tests or not test at all, the laboratory spokeswoman explained.
Dimante pointed out that there is a lot of re-validation of tests to obtain disease certificates.
The situation could be alleviated both by the decision to return to the society after quarantine without the test result and a doctor’s certificate, as well as by the fact that positive antigen self-tests would not have to be confirmed in the laboratory, the representative of “E. Gulbs laboratory” said.
She added that there was currently no information on whether it would be possible to obtain disease certificates in such cases. The solution for the current re-validation would be to use antibody tests performed on blood samples after the disease, when the test can be passed over a longer period of time without endangering others, Dimante said.
If the tests were allowed to be performed only with a doctor’s referral, it would make the work of family doctors very difficult or even paralyzed, the representative of “E.Gulbs laboratory” said.