Wed | Nov 25, 2020

Jamaica gets multi-partner donation of Antigen Rapid Test

Published:Tuesday | October 27, 2020 | 12:18 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
UK High Commissioner Asif Ahmad (third right), makes a point to State Minister of Health and Wellness Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn (third left), at yesterday’s multi-partner donation of more than 80,000 antigen rapid diagnostic COVID-19 tests. Sharing the momen
UK High Commissioner Asif Ahmad (third right), makes a point to State Minister of Health and Wellness Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn (third left), at yesterday’s multi-partner donation of more than 80,000 antigen rapid diagnostic COVID-19 tests. Sharing the moment is Dr Marion Bullock-DuCasse (left), PAHO Emergencies advisor; Dr Karen Webster Kerr, acting chief medical officer (second left), while PAHO representative Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, and Dr Michelle Hamilton, director of National Laboratory, look on.

British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad has underscored the importance of maintaining the safety of front-line workers as they respond to the surge in COVID-19 cases across the island.

At yesterday’s multi-partner donation of over 80,000 antigen rapid diagnostic COVID-19 tests to the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) in a ceremony to boost Jamaica’s testing capacity, Ahmad said it was vitally important to replenish the local stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) as healthcare workers combat the deadly virus.

“The United Kingdom is concerned about the safety of local front-line healthcare heroes and by replenishing stockpiles of PPE, we are meeting an essential need,” he said.

Ahmad also said that speed is of the essence in tackling COVID-19 and that antigen rapid tests “will give Jamaica vital time to isolate and treat those who are infected by the virus”.

“Our approach to the pandemic is to work closely with Jamaica, international organisations, and also offer direct support,” said Ahmad.

In partnership with the UK Government and the United Nations Multi-Partner Trust Fund, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) delivered the antigen rapid tests as part of a large COVID response package worth over US$1 million that included nine oxygen concentrators and over 350,000 pieces of PPE consisting of N95 masks, along with face shields and medical masks.

The new antigen rapid tests will slash COVID-19 results processing time down from multiple days to just 30 minutes.

After appropriate training, private labs and regional health centres will also be able to perform tests at the point of care, which will decentralise testing, reduce the burden on national laboratories, and increase Jamaica’s testing capacity.

CRUCIAL POINT

Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn noted that the introduction of rapid testing comes at a critical juncture in the COVID-19 response.

“Testing is a critical cornerstone of the COVID-19 response, and antigen rapid tests will give our response the added boost needed for the further containing of the spread of the virus,” she said.

PAHO has already begun to help implement new testing protocols so that health workers learn how to use the new diagnostic tests and record their results.

Dr Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, PAHO representative to Jamaica, Bermuda, and The Cayman Islands highlighted that the new antigen rapid diagnostic test is not meant to replace the PCR test, which remains the gold standard in COVID-19 testing.

She stated that PAHO believes that the new antigen rapid tests will be a game-changer for Jamaica’s testing capabilities, offering a cheaper and faster alternative to give the response the flexibility it needs to increase the pace of testing, tracing, and treating people for COVID-19 at the point of care to stay ahead of the virus and slow the spread.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com