Health Minister rejects claims that new variant of COVID – 19 possibly in Guyana

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Amid media reports that variants of the COVID-19 virus may be in Guyana, Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony is reminding that no capacity exists locally to test for the variant as he rejected the reports as untrue.

The minister, who previously said that there is no local capacity to test for the new strain, on Thursday upheld this position in his daily COVID update. Dr Anthony cautioned those disseminating this information and said that the variant, which emanated in the United Kingdom, is yet to be detected here.

“People saying we would be able to identify mutations [but that’s] just not correct,” he said.

According to Dr Anthony, when the variant was first announced by UK’s Prime Minister, Boris John several weeks ago, it was also said to be highly transmissible, which means more people can get infected.

Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony [October 21, 2020]
The Health Minister said despite this possibility, Guyana was not able to detect this type of variant because the country simply does not have the capacity to do so, whether in the public or private health care system.

“To differentiate between variants and/or mutations with the virus, it would mean that our laboratories must be able to do genetic analysis and we don’t have that,” he added.

Dr Anthony said none of the local labs in Guyana would have in house capacity to do that. The Minister acknowledged that local samples can be sent to laboratories abroad for this type of detection to be done through genetic sequencing.

But Eureka Laboratory, a private entity, recently announced that it is capable of successfully identifying persons with either the common strain of the virus or its mutated variants.

Guyana currently has an arrangement with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) where samples can be sent.

“That arrangement is in place and if we believe there are samples that need to be sequenced, we will do so,” Dr. Anthony assured.

“I want to be clear that while we do not have in house capacity that does not mean that we cannot do it,” the Health Minister concluded.

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