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Labs battle Covid testing supplies shortage

A global shortage of supplies is affecting coronavirus testing capacity in laboratories.

Fimlabin drive-in koronatestauspiste Lielahdessa.
Test processing times have increased due to a spike in the number of tests coming in, Filmlab officials said. Image: Antti Eintola / Yle

Finland is facing a shortage of coronavirus test supplies, according to Finland's largest laboratory company Fimlab.

At the moment, Fimlab has the capacity to process half of the tests in 49 hours. However, the test processing time has increased to three or even four days due to a spike in the number of tests coming in, Filmlab officials said.

“The amount of samples needing to be tested is increasing. We cannot utilise the full laboratory testing capacity as there is a constant shortage of test supplies. There have also been issues with testing equipment,” Fimlab's chief physician, Tapio Seiskari said.

According to Seiskari, everyone who is ill will be tested, but there is no capacity or any reason to be testing asymptomatic people currently.

"It may be that as the virus continues to spread, we will have to consider more carefully who will be tested," he stated.

"The laboratories are doing their best to establish where the virus is, and how much of it there is. However, controlling the spread of the virus does not depend on laboratories, but on people and how they behave," he added.

Global shortage

Seiskari said the supply shortage is a challenge for all laboratories. Test supplies are bought from around the world – but the shortage is also global.

"Manufacturers have delivery issues because they too have a shortage of some of the raw materials needed for supplies,” Seiskari said.

He added that many manufacturers have favoured delivering test supplies to areas worst-hit by the virus.

Finland has not been among the worst affected countries but still has tested a lot in comparison to its population size.

Fimlab has several offices outside of Pirkanmaa, but nearly all tests are processed in Tampere. To cut down on test processing times, Fimlab also subcontracts tests from commercial laboratory companies.

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