Latvia to roll out COVID tests via vending machine


RIGA, Dec 10 (Reuters) - A vending machine that issues coronavirus tests and stores the samples has been installed in a Latvian hospital, as the Baltic state turns to automation to help contain the pandemic's spread.

The machine at the Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital in Riga is the first of 100 planned under a countrywide rollout and, says a board member of the company that built it, the first of its kind in the world.

It dispenses PRC swab tests. A technician collects the completed kits once a day and results are available within 24 hours, said Didzis Gavars of the E. Gulbja Laboratory.

"The device removes the need for two to five medical workers to administer the tests, and it removes any risk of infection", he said.

The European Union last week asked countries in the bloc to expand testing capacities to track local outbreaks.

The state pays is paying for tests at the hospital, where the machine is reserved for staff, but other machines will charge 53 euros ($64) per test.

"You need only saliva, you spit in a jar, close it and it's done," said doctor's assistant Dainis Laugalis.

COVID-19 has infected more than 68 million people worldwide and killed more than 1.5 million, according to a Reuters tally. The death toll in Latvia is 288.

($1 = 0.8272 euros)

(Reporting By Janis Laizans; Writing by Andrius Sytas; editing by John Stonestreet)

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