COVID-19 results to soon be available within 15-45 minutes – Health Minister
– $52 million PCR machine to arrive soon
– PAHO proposal for testing strips under review
– point-of-care testing to be done in outlying regions
Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony has announced that a specialised machine valued $52 million will soon arrive in Guyana to speed up the processing of COVID-19 samples using molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory.
He made this announcement on the “Budget 2020: Our Plan to Prosperity” programme, which was aired on the National Communications Network (NCN).
The machine, the Minister said, is one of several interventions being made by the Government to test for the disease and produce timelier results.
“In terms of PCR [testing], in a very short period we should have an additional capacity to be able to work faster and to do more,” Dr. Anthony said.
The Minister said the Government is also exploring other opportunities to test for the disease, following a proposal from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). A technical team from the Ministry is reviewing two types of strips proposed by PAHO which will test for the COVID-19 antigen. Once approved, the strips will be procured through PAHO.
Additionally, Minister Anthony said, approximately $9.8 million is available through a specialised programme, to purchase cartridges that will complement the acquisition of two point-of-care immunodiagnostic machines acquired under the same programme.
“They have high levels of accuracy, they’re faster – within 15-45 minutes for the test,” the Minister said.
Dr. Anthony also confirmed that the Government is awaiting more than 1000 COVID-19 cartridges which are needed to test samples from patients. Once in Guyana, the equipment will be sent to outlying regions to reduce the challenges associated with transporting samples to Georgetown.
“We have those machines in Guyana already, but what we don’t have is the cartridges we have to use…. As soon as those cartridges come, we are going to train people from the outlying areas to use these machines and then deploy these machines out to those regions,” Minister Anthony explained.
“Within another few weeks or so, we will be able to shift from PCR to be able to still test for the antigen – the virus, but using a point-of-care machine that will be right at the clinic,” he added.
Guyana’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic under the new Administration has seen an astronomical increase in testing.
Last Monday during the announcement of sweeping tax relief measures to stimulate the economy, His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali told reporters that the Ministry of Health conducts nearly 250 tests some days, rather than the daily 30-40 tests recorded under the previous administration. With the announced measures and the $51.7 billion allocated to the health sector in Emergency Budget 2020, the Government expects to be able to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.