Singapore scientists float ‘airborne surveillance’ kit for coronavirus – dpa international


Students alighting at a bus stop inside Nanyang Technological University campus in Singapore (Simon Roughneen)

Singapore-based scientists have come up with a device that detects coronavirus in the air of indoor spaces, raising the prospect of “airborne surveillance” of the virus to supplement testing of individuals.

The air-sampling method means “early warning of infection risks” could be possible in hospital wards and nursing homes, and could boost virus-monitoring capabilities in public places where people gather indoors, such as restaurants and cinemas.

The team of scientists and doctors, from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and National University Singapore (NUS), compared their air-sampling findings to surface swabs taken in two local hospital wards during Singapore’s first virus outbreak last year and found the air samples to have a higher detection rate.

According to NTU’s Irvan Luhung, a co-author of the study, the findings showed “the versatility and sensitivity of air sampling for monitoring SARS-CoV-2 in hospital settings, something that was previously not thought possible due to the high ventilation rate of hospital wards.”

Singapore’s Health Ministry had been reporting record pandemic numbers in recent days, with daily case numbers of around 3,500 this week and nine deaths on Tuesday, the most in a single day.

According to the NTU-NUS team the recent “rapid spread” of the virus “underlines the need for rapid identification of the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the environment.”

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