Thu | Nov 26, 2020

New machines to clear 10,000 COVID backlog by month end

Published:Friday | July 17, 2020 | 12:00 AM
United States Ambassador Donald Tapia (left) listens as Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton makes a point during a tour and handover ceremony at the National Public Health Laboratory on Slipe Pen Road, Kingston, on Thursday. Looking on are M
United States Ambassador Donald Tapia (left) listens as Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton makes a point during a tour and handover ceremony at the National Public Health Laboratory on Slipe Pen Road, Kingston, on Thursday. Looking on are Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith (second left) and Dr Michelle Hamilton, director of the lab. New COVID-19 testing machines and kits were handed over by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The acquisition of two high-tech machines and other equipment is expected to ease a backlog of 10,000 coronavirus case samples in Jamaica amid a shortage of test kits triggered by global demand.

Dr Christopher Tufton, minister of health and wellness, also said that the surge in passenger arrivals since the reopening of the country’s tourist industry, as well as limited medical practitioners conducting the processing, has contributed to the logjam.

“We didn’t start off by testing so many people because we weren’t allowing so many people to come in initially. In the opening up, we are now allowing more people, so we need more capacity to deal with that.

There are currently 119 active COVID-19 cases in the island among the overall total of 760. Ten people have died.

The health minister said that Thursday’s handover of 2,000 test kits and the two polymerase chain-reaction machines was expected to clear the backlog by the end of July.

The donation, on behalf of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was made by United States Ambassador Donald Tapia.

Tufton said that the health ministry was changing the testing protocols for non-nationals in order to alleviate the pressure faced by health aides at the nation’s airports.

He disclosed that quarantined travellers were being redirected to undergo COVID-19 testing at health centres.

“The practicality of the airport issue and the space issue will be solved based on the readjustment, which has started, and then with more supplies and the machines, we can test more people,” Tufton said.