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09 June 2021

When the world collapsed

March 2020. The world collapsed. Covid-19 was new – and it wasn’t only hitting a few faraway countries like its predecessors SARS or MERS. The new virus quickly reached pandemic status. It was clear it had the power to spread like nothing ever seen before – at least not in “the West.” Detection was fundamental to containing the disease: but how was it possible to get people tested without compromising safety?

Human creativity came to the rescue.

Drive-throughs were put in place in record time. Unilabs was one of the first European laboratories to set up this type of facility – it opened its first centre in Porto on the 16 March 2020. Three weeks later, 13 new drive-throughs were up and running across the country. Today, 17 are currently open and they are still as busy as ever – and helping local authorities with vaccination.

“I was at home when my coordinator called me and asked me if I wanted to join the team,” says Rui Pedro Rodrigues, one of Unilabs’ administrative officers who has been promoted to drive-through coordinator. “At the time, I did not understand the full scope of this new project, but I immediately said yes because I sensed this was an important mission we were about to embark on.” 

“I also signed in without knowing what to expect,” adds Teresa Almeida, ex-coordinator of one of the drive-throughs and now promoted to Sample Control and Administration Service director. “But I wanted to be part of the solution, helping to fight the pandemic, and this spirit animated all the Unilabs colleagues involved in this project. In the beginning, I was scared, but as soon as I arrived there on my first day, all the safety measures were in place.”

The team at Unilabs was able to source all the gear required to keep its people safe, who shown, once more, the CARE BIG culture that makes Unilabs special.

“They were some hiccups along the way, but the team pulled together. I remember an extremely busy day when we had a problem with our IT system. The cars kept coming. We had to think fast. So we called the team who was off, and they came to the rescue at once. Thanks to the backup team, we managed the queue promptly, and we were able to serve our community. We have been through really tough moments, but I cannot express how proud I feel to be part of this. This time will be in our minds for as long as we live. We are honoured to have contributed to this mission, and I know this team will keep pulling together until we defeat this pandemic,” says Teresa.

Author: Sandra Lastra, Unilabs Group Communication Specialist.

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