February 1, 2020 / 11:06 AM / 25 days ago

Finnish filter firm swamped by Wuhan hospital orders

HELSINKI (Reuters) - As soon as he heard about a new coronavirus spreading rapidly in China, Niklas Skogster said he knew that orders for his company’s electronic air purifiers would rocket.

FILE PHOTO: A hospital staff member in protective garments talks to a police officer at a checkpoint to the Hubei province exclusion zone at the Jiujiang Yangtze River Bridge in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, February 1, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Skogster told Reuters that Espoo-based Genano has already had urgent orders to deliver 200 devices to hospitals in China’s Wuhan region, which is at the centre of the outbreak.

“We have increased our production capacity during this week by five times,” Skogster said.

Products made by Genano, which employs 50 people in Finland, were used during the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in Taiwan and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) in Saudi Arabia, Skogster said.

Genano’s technology not only collects viruses and bacteria like normal air filters, it also kills particles down to a nano-scale, eliminating the risk of contagion from the device itself, Skogster added.

“It can filter particles down to three nanometres, which are very, very small particles,” Skogster said of the purifier that uses an electrical field and current.

“The combination of having exact particle filtration, having the ability to kill and then to filter the gasses, this makes our device unique,” he added.

Finland’s Technical Research Centre tested the technology two years ago and confirmed it worked even against nano-scale impurities such as the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus has found its way to Finland which confirmed on Wednesday its first case in a Chinese traveller who is being treated in isolation in Lapland’s central hospital in northern Finland.

Finland’s national carrier Finnair (FIA1S.HE) said on Friday it was suspending all flights to mainland China between Feb. 6 and 29, but Skogster said the air purifiers were being flown to China before the stoppage and on cargo flights.

While the rapidly spreading virus has had a mainly positive impact on Genano’s business, there are also adverse effects.

“We aren’t getting any deliveries from China now,” Skogster said, adding Genano was struggling to find some components.

“Even if those diodes are the size of a mosquito we still need them for our devices,” he said.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen and Attila Cser; Editing by Alexander Smith

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