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Suvarnabhumi Covid-19 Test Lab Offers Faster Tests, Few Practical Benefits

Government's expensive showpiece can process only 170 tests a day, and has done only 46 in 3 weeks.

Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok Coronavirus Covid-19 Test Testing Lab

Suvarnabhumi International Airport’s coronavirus-testing lab now produces faster results, but still not enough volume to be of any practical use.

Funded in part by the Public Health Ministry, the lab opened July 1 with the capability to return results from the most-accurate PCR test for Covid-19 in 90 minutes. A just-completed upgrade now allows results in 70 minutes.

Even with the added efficiency, the lab is more bragging point than any step forward toward resuming international tourism.

Even able turn around tests in 70 minutes, the tiny lab can only process 170 tests a day. By comparison, Suvarnabhumi currently is receiving 600 repatriating Thais and 200 foreigners a day, more than four times the total people than the lab can test.

It doesn’t really matter though: In its first 20 days, the lab tested only 46 people.

Disease-control Director-General Dr. Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoenchai said airport-based coronavirus testing is reserved exclusively for diplomats, government guests, business travelers on short visits and those suspected to be infected.

One of those who tested positive at the airport was the daughter of a Sudanese diplomat whose entire family returned from Africa just after the lab opened. While almost 20 people from that flight have now tested positive for Covid-19, the girl’s father and mother went back to their Sukhumvit Soi 26 condo instead of an alternative-quarantine facility, kicking off a coronavirus health scare in downtown Bangkok.