Latvia ramps up coronavirus tests for healthcare workers

The number of medics infected with the novel coronavirus is on the increase, with 26 ambulance employees at the State Emergency Medical Service testing positive for the disease. Twice this number are self-isolating after being in contact with an infected patient. Latvia is ramping up tests for emergency medical workers, with more than 700 tested in the past two weeks, reported LTV April 7.

Services have been cut dramatically at the Oncology Center of Latvia, where patients are at a larger risk due to potentially having a compromised immune system. After cases of the Covid-19 virus were discovered at the center, all employees and patients were tested. One patient and two employees tested positive for the virus last weekend. None showed any symptoms. 

After the tests, another 62 employees, being contact persons, had to go into self-isolation, meaning the center is currently short of more than 100 staff.

"As we've cut many services, we have an employee reserve, but it's not endless of course," said Imants Paeglītis, head of the Riga East University Hospital, of which the oncology center is part.

The patient who tested positive has now been released from the hospital.

Masks and respirators

Paeglītis said that the hospital currently has enough reserves of masks and respirators, but hospital staff use a single respirator for up to a week. 

General practitioners (family doctors) are being sent masks and respirators brought in from China. Depending on the size of the office, they are supplied with 10 to 15 masks per day for patients and a single respirator for every day to the doctor, delivered within monthly batches.

Sarmīte Veide, head of Latvia's Association of Family Doctors, said that the number of masks is adequate, given the reduced patient influx at doctors' offices, but offices should have access to at least two or three respirators per day, depending on the number of nurses at the office. 

After delays, the main hospital of Daugavpils, Latvia's second city, has received a shipment of 35,000 masks, 3,500 respirators and 100 protective glasses. The hospital is making its own masks as well.

"We are also seeking for solutions over buying, we're hunting through everywhere for visors, overalls, garments and so forth. It's not like we're out of something, but the reserve isn't very big," said Grigorijs Semjonovs, the head of Daugavpils Regional Hospital.

The aforementioned delays concern shipments from China, which have been delayed due to logistics issues. 

Latvia has received about 1.5 million masks and 80,000 respirators in shipments from China, but the National Health is expecting to receive another 3.5 million masks and about a million respirators in two separate shipments.

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