COVID – How Not To Stop Filming?
Dr. Tamasi says their quick and accurate testing method gives a reassuring confidence for Hollywood film makers, not going for forced holiday due to the pandemic.
Smart Covid Center is a microbiological laboratory in Budapest. It was the first private medical center in Hungary that reacted to Covid-19 with a large scale of medical and testing services and the only one that worked out a testing protocol for big film productions. Dr. Tamasi says their quick and accurate testing method gives a reassuring confidence for Hollywood film makers, not going for forced holiday due to the pandemic.
Budapest Reporter: How did Smart Covid Center work out a coronavirus-strategy that allows safe working in Origo Studios?
Dr. Andras Tamasi: We underwent a six-week audit to achieve the approval of UCLA’s research group. Our laboratory with the highest progressivity level and “our pandemic plans” met UCLA’s criterion. For film crew testing we developed an automated testing system to decrease risk factors. Working with large film crews we need to react extremely quickly in case of infection. If somebody becomes suspicious during filming, our testing teams are able to test hundreds of crew members on the spot within a few hours and in multiple locations we test hundreds of people daily. Basically, data-processing takes the most time, therefore each tested patient has their own QR-code that reduces the risk of data failures. The system is GDPR compatible and our own improvement. We built another pandemic protocol for extras, depending on how close they get to each other and to main actors.
BR: What is the biggest misunderstanding of coronavirus?
AT: Most people think that a negative antigen test result means they don’t have the infectious disease, even though it doesn’t lock out the possibility of infection. Moreover, tests that show occurence of the antibodies don’t give you a clear picture as there is no direct proportionality for immunity and immunoglobulin level.
What we see now is that those who’d undergone Covid-19 with strong symptoms have higher immunoglobulin levels and are more immune protected than those who only had weak symptoms. In my opinion, those with higher immunoglobulin levels are immune protected for about 3-6 months.
BR: Does reducing the length of quarantine obligation impact the number of infected?
AT: We’re continuously testing some film crew members under quarantine, too. It is surprising that some of them are tested positive even on the 10th day or after it. But we should acknowledge that a positive test doesn’t necessarily mean infection. There is a wide range of individual variability, therefore we can’t create a golden rule. The PCR-test is a microbiological examination, symptoms and the test together create a clear picture of the patient. These late positive PCR cases are often caused by dead virus fragments detectable on the PCR.
BR: What kind of prevention is the most effective?
AT: There is evidence of the effectiveness of vitamin-D but I think the basic Covid-protocol is the first step of prevention: social distancing, wearing face masks and hand disinfection. Testing is important, too but it isn’t applicable for the whole society. If people with symptoms were tested in time we could isolate them before infectious stadium. A lot depends on viral load, that’s why I emphasise the importance of face mask.
BR: What do you think about Sweden’s coronavirus strategy and the flock immunity?
AT: What we can always use as a reference is the mortality rate of the disease. Our short-term goal is to increase the capacity of intensive care units, to flat the curve.
About the Swedish strategy: if the mortality rate can be controlled, while the elders and people with underlying health conditions are protected, we can say it’s a well-functioning strategy but difficult to implement. In Hungary, flock immunity can develop in case of 3,7 million infected. Ideally the pandemic will last till April.
BR: Back to where we started – how do you see the near future in film industry and what can be a biggest challenge for film makers?
AT: Since the pandemic, Origo was able to manage the first big film production in Budapest, and a few more have been filmed during coronavirus. One thing we should acknowledge: if we pay enough attention and we respect the safety protocol, film shooting is not impossible these times.