Fri | Jul 3, 2020

No timeline on new testing kits

Published:Thursday | March 26, 2020 | 12:25 AM

With 184 tests for COVID-19 conducted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness since Jamaica registered its first related case on March 10, Permanent Secretary Dunstan Bryan says that a decision should be made by today on the most appropriate test kit to be acquired here.

The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), in collaboration with the National Influenza Centre, had reviewed and reported on the type of test kits to be purchased.

Bryan told members of Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) yesterday that the ministry was aggressively pushing towards increasing its capacity for testing.

However, when quizzed on a timeline for the acquisition of new test kits, Bryan was unable to give a date.

In relation to the 400,000 N95 surgical masks that had been ordered by the ministry, Bryan said that they were expecting to receive the masks from last week. He explained that challenges with the supply chain from China had significantly delayed the arrival of the batch of masks. The ministry said that the order was made about three weeks ago.

Chairman of the PAAC, Dr Wykeham McNeill, queried whether the health ministry had been aggressive in conducting tests for COVID-19 or if it had taken on a more conservative approach.

Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, chief medical officer (CMO) in the health and wellness ministry, said that the testing protocol was to assess all suspected cases that displayed symptoms and had a contact history with positive patients.

“We are also testing what we call ‘persons under investigation’. They have a contact history, but they may not have all the symptoms that fit the case definition – they may have some,” the CMO said.

She said that testing has also been extended to all “severe acute respiratory infections that come into hospitals across the island whether or not there was contact or travel history”.

The initial test kits obtained from the Pan American Health Organization were able to do 96 tests, the CMO added.

She said that the second set of kits received from the same source could carry out some 3,000 tests.

The PAAC yesterday reviewed the Third Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, which was tabled in Parliament by Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke on Tuesday.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com