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China's BGI helps Serbia build automated COVID-19 testing lab

Source: Xinhua | 2020-04-21

BELGRADE, April 20 (Xinhua) -- A new COVID-19 testing lab, parts of which were donated by Chinese companies, opened in the Serbian capital on Monday, significantly increasing the country's virus testing capabilities.

The opening of the Laboratory for Molecular Detection of Infectious Agents dubbed "Fire Eye" at the Clinical Center of Serbia in Belgrade was attended by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar, Director of the Clinic for Infectious and Tropical Diseases Goran Stevanovic, Chinese Ambassador to Serbia Chen Bo and medical experts from China.

Brnabic said that the new laboratory "brings Serbia among the most efficient countries in this part of Europe" when it comes to diagnosing COVID-19.

She said that the laboratory will stay operational after the coronavirus crisis is over and will strengthen Serbia's healthcare system. Serbia will continue talks with the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) about the establishment of an Institute for Molecular Genomics and Precision Medicine in Serbia.

The new fully automated laboratory built and installed in around three weeks will be able to conduct around 2,000 coronavirus tests per day and will employ 40 microbiologists.

This is the first of two laboratories to be installed by the Chinese BGI group in Serbia. The project is worth over 700,000 euros (760.700 U.S. dollars), of which around 570,000 euros are to be donated by Chinese companies.

The second lab, which will be installed in the city of Nis in the coming weeks, will perform around 1,000 coronavirus tests a day, government said. With these two labs, Serbia's testing capacities will be doubled.

Ambassador Chen recalled that the team of Chinese experts has been in Serbia for a month already working alongside their Serbian colleagues, and that the new laboratory is yet another cooperative achievement.

There are 6,630 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Serbia. A total of 125 people have died of the disease. To date, the country has performed 41,812 virus tests. (1 euro = 1.09 U.S. dollars)