The Covid-19 testing machine being used in the Gilbert Bain Hospital laboratory is designed for small-scale, urgent testing and runs individual tests at a time.
This is unlike the mass testing machines in city-based laboratories where more than 200 Covid-19 tests can be packed into the machine simultaneously and which take a full day to process.
The new Lerwick-based machine, which cost around £80,000, was provided by the Scottish government through the Scottish Microbiology and Virology Network (SMVN).
NHS Shetland laboratory manager Robert Wardrop said the network had done an enormous amount of work to ensure Shetland was able to provide on-island testing.
“We are extremely grateful to the SMVN for making this happen,” Mr Wardrop said. “This machine was destined for somewhere else but was redirected to us, because of our isolated location, to enable us to do emergency testing.”
The machine will be used to test for Covid-19 when:
• A very ill patient needs to be airlifted (for something other than Covid-19) but has a fever (the result would then dictate how the patient is transferred);
• A patient is admitted to hospital with suspected Covid-19;
• A key worker or one of their family members is showing symptoms;
• A care home patient shows symptoms;
• A hospital patient is returning to a home where someone is shielding.
Mr Wardrop said: “This is not for large scale community or sentinel (surveillance) testing.”
He explained that the machine looked for two genes – a coronavirus gene and then specially, the Covid-19 gene.