It turns out that HIV testing machines are coming in handy in the fight against COVID-19. A hospital in Vancouver has recently announced that it has high volume COVID-19 testing capabilities thanks to repurposing machines that were already at the hospital. According to an announcement from St. Paul's Hospital, the method can test over 2,000 COVID-19 samples a day.

On March 21, the St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver announced that they were the first hospital in Canada to start using a new, "high throughput and fully automated" COVID-19 testing method. 

This method uses a pair of machines that are typically used for HIV and hepatitis B testing. 

Dr. Marc Romney with the St. Paul's Hospital has already received approval from Health Canada to start testing for COVID-19 using the Roche comas 6800 system. 

He and his team are now working around the clock with Roche Canada to get this automated system running as soon as possible. 

By repurposing the machines, the team would be able to successfully analyze COVID-19 testing swabs. 

Should the hospital's two machines be able to run at full capacity for a 24 hour period, over 2,000 samples could be processed. 

“Testing is the key to COVID-19 diagnostics (for patient care) and surveillance (for public health),” says Dr. Romney on the St. Paul's website 

“And high volume testing capacity is critical in our fight to contain and control the spread of COVID-19. This new testing platform should allow us to increase significantly our testing capacity, possibly increasing testing capacity four to five-fold (if there are no supply issues with respect to kits).”

Dr. Romney has stated that the Vancouver hospital currently has two of the instruments in operation. 

Both could conduct testing and deliver results from samples overnight. 

Realistically, the lab at the hospital hopes to increase capacity by 600 to 1,000 tests per day. This would be on top of the already mid-volume testing done at the virology lab. 

In addition, residents of B.C. can access an at-home self-assessment online. 

There is also a hotline created to answer general questions about COVID-19 and get up to date information on the virus. 

If you want to celebrate the healthcare workers in Vancouver, locals are joining a daily cheer from isolation in support. 

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