LISBON: In a redeveloped urban park in Lisbon, a “drive-thru” clinic is performing five-minute swab tests through car windows on people with coronavirus symptoms, as Portuguese authorities ramp up testing facilities to tackle the growing health emergency.

Portugal reported on Thursday 3,544 confirmed cases of the virus since the start of the epidemic, with 60 deaths. That is still far below neighbouring Spain or Italy, but the government expects the epidemic only to peak around mid-April.

The model of mobile clinics now popping up across Europe and the Americas began in South Korea in February and has been recommended by the WHO as a way of alleviating pressure on hospitals and reducing the risk of contagion by keeping patients in their cars.

The Lisbon “drive-thru”, which opened on Monday and expects to perform 150 tests a day, is one of 10 new testing centres to be launched in coming weeks in Portugal.

Portugal’s first such site, in the northern city of Porto where the country’s first coronavirus case was detected, started operations last week and now tests about 400 people a day.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2020