MoH seeking to build COVID-19 testing capacity

Min. Anthony outlines immediate actions to be taken

−Aims to get 500 COVID-19 tests done daily

DPI, Guyana, Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Ministry of Health under the leadership of newly-appointed Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony will be seeking to expand Guyana’s testing capacity for COVID-19.

Shortly after he was sworn in on Wednesday, Minister Anthony pointed out that there is the need for widespread testing for the virus to ascertain the actual situation locally. In expanding testing, some immediate actions are to be considered.

Firstly, Minister Anthony said that the new government has already sought to address the issue of limited testing kits. This will eventually allow for a decentralised approach to having COVID-19 tests done. This means the ministry will have to build capacity for testing.

“We need to decentralise because it takes sometimes eight days for someone in Region Nine who had a swab taken to get to Georgetown and then to be tested at the Reference Lab and the results returned to them … we have to change that,” Dr. Anthony said.

As part of the new government’s approach to revamping the country’s response to COVID-19, there is also the goal to have 500 test samples processed daily. The Public Health sector currently can process 300 COVID-19 tests daily.

“We want to collaborate, we have already engaged the private sector because they have PCR machines in their hospitals, to get them to be involved in this effort and we are hopeful that we can get the private sector to increase their capacity to about 200 so as a country we would have about 500 tests per day that can be done,” the Minister explained.

It was noted that with the country’s current testing capacity in the public health sector is at the level of the National Public Health Reference Laboratory. Minister Anthony said that it would take about five to six hours for tests to run.

He suggested that newer PCR machines be procured that will allow for more samples to be processed.

According to the Public Health Minister, there is also a consideration for another method of testing to be used.

“While these PCRs are used as diagnostic tests, there is also a role for the antibody test. The Ministry had a position where they weren’t allowing anti-body tests but in that limited role, one of the things we are examining is to allow some of those tests to be utilised in that specific role.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health is looking to standardise testing protocols for COVID-19 as this well ensure quality results, accuracy and a faster turn around time. This will allow for better assessment of the COVID-19 situation in Guyana.