New Zealand's Christchurch Hospital opens PC3 biosafety lab

New Zealand's Christchurch Hospital recently opened a laboratory that will allow scientists to work with and contain infectious diseases.

The laboratory is the first in the country with a PC3 biosafety designation. It operates under negative air pressure, which ensures that infectious viruses or bacteria cannot escape into the outside atmosphere, according to

"It's to contain viruses and organisms that we work with to stop them escaping into the atmosphere," Trevor English, a general manager at Christchurch Hospital, said, reports. "It's also a room that's designed to make it really easy to work with those organisms so the staff don't get infected."

The atmosphere in the room is set at slightly below normal air pressure, so air is constantly being forced into the room. There is also a double airlock entry system and filters constantly cleaning incoming and outgoing air.

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew participated in the lab's official opening. Goodhew said that New Zealand's health system can now safely test and investigate new and emerging threats and highly infectious organisms.

"It is an important move forward for working with and diagnosing these particular types of organisms and at the same time keeping the public safe from any exposure to them," Goodhew said, reports.