China’s BGI to help build two COVID-19 testing labs in Serbia

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/9 17:28:40

The Huo-Yan laboratory Photos: BGI

Chinese genomics company BGI will help build two COVID-19 testing labs in Serbia, part of an effort to improve the country's ability to test for the coronavirus and also an example of Chinese firms' efforts to help other countries as the pandemic expands globally. 

The labs, one in Serbia's capital Belgrade and the other in the southern city of Nis, will achieve total daily tests of 3,000 - triple the current level, according to a statement on the website of the Serbian government.

Shenzhen-based BGI has built more than a dozen such facilities, also known as Huo-yan Laboratories, across China, which consist a crucial part in China's strategy to fight the epidemic.

The company is also negotiating with governments or partners in more than 10 countries and regions to build additional labs, BGI told the Global Times on Thursday.

BGI's Huo-Yan Lab in UAE Photo: Courtesy of BGI

Company insiders told the Global Times that if BGI is chosen to build more testing facilities, it will need to send technicians and equipment from China to train local workers and guide construction. All the equipment is made in China.

Key equipment made by BGI used in Huo-yan Laboratories has also arrived in the US and Sweden, BGI disclosed.

The labs have played significant roles in fighting the coronavirus in many locations around the world. BGI worked with companies in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on such a facility, which can conduct tens of thousands of RT-PCR tests a day.

The UAE facility may also receive samples from neighboring regions and provide close tracking of possible new pathogens and mutations of the virus, based on BGI's high-throughput sequencing technology.

On April 2, an emergency test laboratory built by BGI and designed to handle 1,000 samples daily began operations in Brunei. It's the first BGI Huo-Yan Laboratory built in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Serbian government will send a chartered plane to China to transport BGI's technical experts and equipment, BGI said in a statement it sent to the Global Times.

The experts, who will help train local medical staff and set up the laboratories, are scheduled to arrive in Serbia early next week. The Belgrade laboratory is expected to open in mid-April within the Clinical Centre of Serbia. The laboratory in Nis is being built from scratch and will take roughly six weeks to be completed.

Serbia reported its first COVID-19 case on March 6 and declared a state of emergency 10 days later. Serbia has more than 2,600 confirmed cases so far. 

China flew six doctors, as well as ventilators and medical masks, to Serbia on March 22. On March 16, the first batch of medical aid from China to Serbia - the very first donation Serbia received from foreign countries — arrived in Belgrade. 


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