Technicians to be trained to test for COVID-19

− part of Health Ministry’s aim to build capacity for COVID-19 testing

− more testing kits expected

DPI, Guyana, Saturday, August 8, 2020


Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony has disclosed details of how the PPP/C Government plans to build capacity and expand testing for COVID-19 in Guyana.

These efforts, he emphasised, will properly assess and respond to the COVID-19 situation in Guyana.

Minister Anthony was at the time speaking on the televised programme ‘Government in Focus’ with Host, Michael Gordon.

The Health Minister noted that a major constraint in efficiently and effectively rolling out testing is the human resources gap.

He disclosed that just a few persons were initially trained to conduct COVID-19 tests; which is insufficient to achieve the set goal of having the public sector process 300 PCR tests daily. Therefore, more laboratory technicians will be trained.

“We have a collaboration right now with PAHO, and as of next week, we want to start training for maybe about 20-30 technicians in the area of PCR testing. That training is going to be done by a virologist out of Washington DC. We are going to do that training online, and once that training is finished, they are going to be able to do the practical component of that training in the national reference lab,” Minister Anthony detailed.

The objective of the training is to have a corps of skilled professionals who can be deployed to the several sites that the ministry has identified to process PCR tests for COVID-19. These are apart from the National Public Health Reference Laboratory.

Currently, the Reference Laboratory is unable to accommodate additional staff and equipment; however, the Health Minister indicated that there are other government facilities with the equipment and laboratories that can be utilised.

He said a laboratory committee has been established with the necessary technical personnel. The group has already begun to examine expanding testing at the Reference Laboratory while utilising other offsite facilities.

Dr. Anthony explained that private health facilities are likely to come on board as well.

“In a lot of the private entities, an average PCR test would cost maybe about $20,000 to $25,000 per test… Next week, I am going to be meeting with these hospitals. The government is willing to give them the test kits, and if we give them the test kits, then the price would have to come down for the persons who go there for testing.”

It was also revealed that the ministry has already secured test kits to facilitate the expansion and building of the country’s testing capacity for COVID-19.

According to the Health Minister, the shortage of test kits was a priority of the PPP/C government, and this was addressed immediately.

“Over the last couple of days, one of the things we would have focused on is the acquisition of test kits, and you would have heard the President mention that we have gotten from Barbados 15,000 test kits. In addition to that, we have been working very actively with the PAHO, and by next week, we will get an additional 10,000 test kits from PAHO and hopefully by the end of the month we are expecting another 40,000 test kits.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony has indicated that rapid tests are going to be used locally to aid in identifying positive COVID-19 CASES QUICKER.

“We have received from CDEMA [Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency] 48,000 anti-body test kits – these are rapid test kits, so if somebody was infected and they developed antibodies and they use this, it would show that they are positive. With these kits, in 15 minutes you can get a result, so that can at least give you a preliminary indication.”