Health Ministry still struggling with huge backlog of COVID-19 tests

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The Ministry of Health is still grappling with a backlog of 1,000 COVID-19 samples collected for testing across the ten administrative regions of Guyana.

“We currently have a backlog of close to 1,000, that has been reduced from 1,900 a few days ago to now 1,000 but the thousand is still quite a lot so when we take a sample, it still takes a few days until we can get back the results,” Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony said in his daily COVID-19 update on Thursday.

The National Public Health Reference Laboratory (NPHRL) is the only certified laboratory locally which does COVID-19 tests.

Currently, that laboratory is doing between 250 to 300 tests per day.

The Health Minister said efforts are being made to increase the capacity at the lab; this is being done with new machines which are awaiting certification.

Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony

Dr Anthony said the Ministry has acquired a biohazardous cabinet which will ensure that the laboratory personnel are adequately protected but he said while the Ministry can set up the cabinet, it needs to be properly certified to ensure “no viral particles can escape.”

“We have contacted the agencies abroad who would have to come to Guyana to do the certification. So a lot of the groundwork was done but these things require some time before processes and all equipment are in place,” he explained.

In the interim, 500 samples which were sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad for testing is expected to return between Thursday afternoon and Friday.

As such, the Ministry is expecting a big jump in positive COVID-19 cases.

“One of the things people will have to understand when we get back those results…you might see a big jump in the numbers and I don’t want people to be alarmed because if we test X amount of samples, we are going to see positives in those samples,” Dr Anthony explained.

According to the Health Minister, the Ministry is also prioritizing testing with critically ill patients and health workers who have been exposed.

“So an asymptomatic person who thought they might have been exposed, show up, got a swab done, is not the same as somebody who is critically ill and in the hospital and we really need know whether that person is positive or not. So the hospitalized person will be given priority so we know how to treat and what to do,” the Health Minister said.

He apologized to persons who are in home isolation awaiting results.

Guyana on Wednesday recorded nine new COVID-19 cases bringing the total number of known cases to 1,382, including 43 deaths.

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