Omicron: COVID samples ‘packed and ready’ but not yet sent for testing
- Guyana building local capacity to test for variants
About one month after it was announced that COVID-19 samples were collected and would be sent to Trinidad to confirm the presence of the Omicron variant here, Health Minister Dr. Frank noted that those samples have not yet been shipped abroad.
At the end of 2021, a rapid increase in cases was recorded and health authorities linked it to the suspected presence of the new Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus. This variant has been found to be more transmissible.
To confirm this, Guyana has to send samples abroad for a specialised testing- known as genomic sequencing- since there is no in-country capacity for this.
Dr. Anthony, however, said that there have been difficulties sending those samples to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad and Tobago for testing.
“The samples are packed and ready to go but we have to ensure that we get the right shipments,” the Health Minister said.
He also noted that efforts are also being made to send samples to a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) laboratory in Panama.
Once these samples are sent, Dr. Anthony is sure that the country would be able to definitively confirm the presence of the Omicron variant. Health authorities already suspect the presence of this variant due to the clinical information gathered.
Importantly, the Health Minister also announced that the country is building local capacity to test for variants. A genetic sequencing machine has been procured and is housed at the National Public Health Reference laboratory in Georgetown.
That machine was received through a malaria project but it can also be used to test for COVID variants. And already, local health workers are benefitting from training on how to use this machine, Dr. Anthony said.
“This will be a quantum leap for the kinds of laboratory tests we have in Guyana,” Dr. Anthony said, noting that engaging in the tests right here will prevent long waiting times.