COVID-19 test results to now take 2-3hrs with new machine
The Chinese government has donated a COVID-19 testing machine that will vastly improve the capacity for testing in Guyana, specifically reducing the long waiting time for results.
Newly appointed Chief Medical Officer Dr Narine Singh told the News Room Thursday that the machine was installed on Wednesday at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory.
“We have gotten some pieces of equipment from China that is going to reduce the time for results,” he stated. He said results could be within 2 to 3 hours with this additional piece of equipment.
“This is what we call an extractor, which extracts the viral genetic material so it takes a faster time to get the results.”
Dr Singh explained that with the machine, testing will be done in batches but he could not say how many tests will actually be done in one batch “but in a day we would probably do over 200 to 300 tests.”
He further said that samples coming from hinterland regions will take at least a day to get back results. Currently the test results take 48-72 hours when done with the National Reference Lab. However, testing is done privately at a cost of $25,000 at the Eureka Medical Lab which is the only private lab authorized to do COVID-19 testing.
“Nobody else has been authorized so far to perform PCR testing. To do the testing it is a specific set up, the persons have to be trained, they have to have special laboratory equipment and biosafety cupboards. So they have to put all those arrangement in place before being certified to do the test,” Dr Singh said.
Meanwhile, with 24 additional ventilators that arrived in the country on Thursday and which were also donated by the Chinese government, regional hospitals such as Linden, New Amsterdam, Suddie and Bartica will now be boosted to treat critical COVID-19 patients. Currently there is a limited ICU capacity at the New Amsterdam and Suddie Hospital to treat patients.
“These regional hospitals have some limited capacity in terms of ICU – not the fully developed high level ICU that we have at the Georgetown Hospital. They can keep patients up to a certain level of complications but once the patient gets more complicated they will need the ICU at Georgetown Hospital,” Dr Singh said.
As it relates to the increase in deaths due to COVID-19, Dr Singh explained that patients’ age is a huge risk factor along with chronic medical conditions. Majority of the patients who have died were above 65-year-old. As of October 07, 2020, the death toll was 98, but Dr Narine said this is not alarming.
“Our death rate is just about 2% which is not high but the people who are really dying are people with co-morbidities like diabetes.
“There are a lot of elderly people who are COVID-19 positive and are coming through; they are not succumbing; so it is not every elderly person who gets COVID-19 will succumb.”
According to Dr Singh, since the beginning of the pandemic in March, Guyana’s response to critical patients has improved greatly.
“The treatment now is much better. We have improved and there is this drug we are trying now – the antiviral remdesivir – and we have plasma therapy to treat patients who are really critically ill,” Dr Singh said.
Currently the COVID-19 hotspots in the country are Regions One and Four with Region Four accounting for over 1,500 of the confirmed cases in the country.
Dr Singh said getting citizens to change their behaviour towards the disease will contribute to lessening the spread of COVID-19.