South Korea takes ‘fast-food’ approach to COVID-19 testing

TORONTO — Inspired by fast-food chains, South Korea is screening residents for the novel coronavirus through drive-thru testing stations.

Health workers in hazmat suits greet drivers as they enter a parking lot in the city of Goyang, neighboring the nation’s capital of Seoul.

Here, visitors can be tested for COVID-19 within minutes in the comfort of their own vehicle.

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The test involves a nose and throat swab and drivers can expect results within three days via text message.

Convenience is not the only reason behind these testing stations. Health officials told CNN that this method eliminates the potential for patients to contaminate others by crowding in hospital waiting rooms.

While there are more than 500 coronavirus testing sites in South Korea, this is the first “drive-thru” site since opening on Feb. 26. The testing stations have been able to screen as many as 384 people in one day.

This test is free and open to anyone in the area, including non-South Korean citizens.

Drivers are asked to fill out a questionnaire to detail recent travel history and symptoms. This will allow health workers to determine whether screening is necessary.

As of Monday, South Korea has reported more than 4,000 cases and 26 deaths.

Canada has 27 confirmed cases of coronavirus and all patients have either travelled or came into contact with travellers from China, Iran and Egypt, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Screenings for coronavirus will remain focused on travellers but there are plans to open testing to those showing flu-like symptoms, said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam in a teleconference on Monday.

“There will be a continued focus on travel… Also, a number of jurisdictions are either already or planning to test people who present influenza like illness that haven’t travelled and that allows us to look more widely to see if there’s any COVID-19 not linked to travel,” Tam said.

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