The COVID-19 pandemic has spread throughout the world, with over 2/3 of the cases having been recorded in Europe and the United States. Supported by the Technology Development Programs of Department of Industrial Technology (DoIT), Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), ITRI has developed a positive pressure testing booth, which it hopes will assist medical workers in screening for COVID-19 patients. Embracing the spirit of "Taiwan Helps, ITRI Helps," ITRI is offering its support to the international community. This positive pressure testing booth was developed in conjunction with National Taiwan University Hospital Hsinchu Biomedical Park Branch, Mackay Memorial Hospital Hsinchu Branch and other doctors’ input, and the booths are now in field tests in both hospitals. The booths have five unique features, one of which is its level of cleanliness. It is even cleaner than an operating room, making it the most immaculate testing booth in the world.
ITRI Executive Vice President Alex Y.M. Peng remarked that the positive pressure testing booth first and foremost protects frontline medical workers. The booth emphasizes safe design, employing a special positive pressure technology that only allows air to move from inside to outside. Contaminated air is unable to enter the booth, alleviating any risk to medical workers taking samples. They needn't wear any special equipment other than masks and normal lab gowns. The second characteristic of the booth is its high sample collection rate. The booth has two sides, enabling samples from at least 12 individuals to be collected each hour. Given the urgency of the situation, samples can be collected from 240 people daily, offering greater efficiency than the average 70 samples collected daily from booths in South Korea. The booths conserve energy and are comfortable for medical workers staying inside, with each booth fitted with an air-conditioner, creating a comfortable and dry environment 24 hours a day, regardless of the season. The smart energy-saving technology reduces daily electricity costs to less than NT$60. The fourth feature of the booths is that they are independent and ultra-clean. The booths feature a Class 1000 level of cleanliness, which is even higher than operating rooms in hospitals, making them among the cleanest testing booth in the world. In addition, the phone booth style reduces concerns of infection between the public and medical workers. Lastly, the testing booth offers quick assembling possibility. It can be assembled in just two days, thereby offering rapid deployment.
ITRI’s Vice President and Green Energy and Environment Research Laboratories General Director Ren-Chain (Joseph) Wang commented that clinical physicians and experts participated in a gathering during the preliminary stages of the booth's design, when they determined three key issues that had to be addressed. First is the high consumption of protective clothing in present situation. If the design did not feature positive pressure, medical workers obtaining samples would first have to spend 20-30 minutes putting on a full set of protective clothing, which can be cumbersome and delay their work. In addition, each set of protective clothing costs between NT$2,000 and NT$3,000, increasing the costs in obtaining samples. Second, it is inconvenient to wear all this clothing and be exposed to wind, rain, and the sun. Mackay Memorial Hospital's Dr. YuChi Jason Tseng said that one's clothes worn underneath the protective gear could become soaked just 20 minutes after putting on the gear, creating a nightmare for medical personnel. Third, the risk of infection is high. Some inspection stations currently in use are connected to buildings, and risks are higher if potential sources of infection aren't totally isolated.
ITRI’s Vice President and Biomedical Technology and Device Research Laboratories General Director Chii-Wann Lin stated that rapid assembly of the positive pressure testing booths makes them suited to be constructed at border points for virus testing. In the future, ITRI will offer an integrated one-stop solution that enables sampling and testing to be completed within 70 minutes. The construction of a positive pressure testing booth requires system components from multiple disciplines, most of which can be sourced from local supply chains. Should other nations have a demand for these booths, ITRI will work together with industry in integrating various technologies and exporting the results.