Tue | Jan 26, 2021

COVID campaign to sweep through St Catherine

Published:Friday | November 27, 2020 | 12:22 AMRasbert Turner/Gleaner Writer
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton (right) is briefed on the function of the F200 machine, which is used to detect coronavirus (COVID-19) infections under the antigen testing procedure, by medical technologist at the National Public Heal
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton (right) is briefed on the function of the F200 machine, which is used to detect coronavirus (COVID-19) infections under the antigen testing procedure, by medical technologist at the National Public Health Laboratory, Sheamar Wiles. Occasion was a demonstration at the Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine on Wednesday, which is among nine sites where antigen testing is being piloted.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness will be ramping up its coronavirus awareness campaign across St Catherine over the next 10 days amid fears of a Christmas and New Year spike from mass gathering over the holiday shopping period

The sensitisation drive will target special groups, like transport operators as well as the general public, and span urban centres like Spanish Town and Portmore, and rural areas like Lluidas Vale.

That initiative, which runs from November 27 to December 6, follows Monday’s launch of a pilot of antigen testing at nine public health facilities across the island.

The hospitals in the pilot include the Kingston Public Hospital and Bustamante Hospital for Children, and the Comprehensive Health Centre in the Corporate Area; Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine; Mandeville Regional Hospital in Manchester; Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James, and St Ann’s Bay Regional Hospital in St Ann.

Twelve privately operated laboratories are also on board.

The 30-day pilot is expected to drive down costs for coronavirus evaluation, while increasing access to a greater number of Jamaicans.

Antigen test results can be processed in half an hour, compared to the PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, which is the gold standard. Rapid antigen results are slightly less foolproof than PCR ones but have widespread confidence internationally.

Antigen tests cost US$5-US$6 each, compared to J$18,000-J$20,000 for PCR tests.

Speaking at the Spanish Town Hospital on Wednesday, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said the antigen alternative would allow for timely delivery of results. Currently, it takes days to process results in the public health sector.

“I hope that with the antigen test being made available for private laboratories, providers will keep it within the reach of the populace,” Tufton said.

ENOUGH PERSONNEL

Meanwhile, Director of the National Laboratory, Dr Michelle Hamilton, said the ministry has enough personnel to deal with the testing of symptomatic persons.

“We have extensively trained more than 100 personnel, but we have started with 50,” Hamilton said.

The revelation was made on November 25 at the Spanish Town General Hospital in St Catherine.

It was revealed that despite the Pan American Health Organization- and World Health Organization-approved antigen tests, if there are questionable results, then the patient would have to revert to the PCR testing.

At the Spanish Town Hospital on Wednesday, Margaret Newby-Brown was optimistic about the future of antigen tests.

“Bwoy, mi glad about this new testing thing, as it is very expensive to care for those who are affected by the COVID-19 virus. In fact, I lose a relative to the virus as we didn’t have the money for testing,” Newby-Brown said.

Jamaica on Wednesday recorded one additional COVID-19 death, pushing the tally to 248.

The deceased is a 75-year-old male from St James.

Two other deaths are under investigation.

Meanwhile, there were 53 new cases with ages ranging from five to 87 years, pushing the total to 10,541 with 4,428 being active.