Gov’t awaits report from Eureka on testing capability for new COVID-19 strain

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Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony, on Monday maintained that Guyana does not have the capability to detect the new strain of COVID-19.

However, local lab, Eureka Medical Laboratory has claimed that it has the capability and reported that the new strain may have been in Guyana since December 2020.

The Health Minister, during Monday’s COVID-19 Update, stated that it is required by law that such findings should be reported to the Ministry but the Ministry has not received any such report from the lab.

Additionally, the Minister stated that they have written to the lab and are still awaiting a response.

“As it is now, we have not received any such reports from Eureka Medical Laboratory and I have asked last week the Chief Medical Officer to write the Eureka Medical Laboratory for the results that purportedly they have of these new strains that they have discovered in Guyana.

“To date we have not received any such reports from them,” the Health Minister stated.

The Minister further stated that the Caribbean as a whole does not have any testing capability to detect the new strain of the virus.

“It is only if we have a very proactive programme of surveillance using genetic sequencing that we will be able to detect this, that is how the UK was able to detect this type of mutation because about 10% of the persons they test, they automatically take those samples and do genetic sequencing on them to look at the mutations that is happening with the virus,” the Minister explained.

Additionally, the latest advice from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) does not include from shutting down borders to guard against the new strains.

Meanwhile, the Minister said more capacity building is needed in the Caribbean to test for the new strain.

So far, CARPHA has set up a project to do limited genetic sequencing where countries are invited to send at least 10 samples per month.

“…out of that then maybe we will start building a picture of what strains of the virus are circulating in the region,” the Minister said.

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