Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) director of the Department of Communicable Diseases Dr Marcos Espinal said TT is still not testing as much as it should.
He was speaking during TTT’s NOW morning show on Tuesday.
Espinal said Mauritius in East Africa, which has a population comparable to TT, has done over 200,000 tests, as compared to TT’s almost 24,000. “It is important to increase the testing because otherwise we will not know what the magnitude of the problem is. Another example is Costa Rica which has created mobile teams to ensure people who are isolated are followed properly to make sure they received their medicines, food and they are taken care of by family or relatives.
This is because you don’t have to hospitalise everyone, it is important as there are best practices and PAHO is willing to assist.”
The testing rate in TT is currently at five per cent. Up to July 20, before the current spike in covid19 cases began, 4,557 unique samples had been tested in the public health system, from which 137 people had tested positive. This totalled three per cent of tests done. As of Tuesday morning, 20,729 tests had been carried out, of which 1,063 samples had tested positive. This totalled 5.13 per cent of tests done. In March, the WHO said between three and 12 per cent of tests have been positive in countries where extensive testing has taken place.
World Health Organization (WHO)/PAHO Rep for TT and the Dutch Kingdom Islands Dr Erica Wheeler, also speaking on the NOW morning show, said the antigen tests announced by the health minster on Monday would assist in the ramping up of testing. PAHO is assisting the government in purchasing the testing kits.
“What PAHO is assisting the country to do is to decentralise the testing, to make it easier for people to go to the primary care level, meaning to their clinics, and be tested there, so this is going to make a great difference. We call it a “game-changer,” these antigen tests, because the turn-around time is going to be very quick. Between 15 and 30 minutes you can have a test done, and this will make a really big difference in being able to ramp up the testing, not just in district hospitals and in Couva and Caura, but also in the clinics, so that’s really important.”
The new rapid antigen test kits cost US$6 each and will be an investment of US$960,000 for TT. The new technology gives the capacity to do antigen testing that has an all-round accuracy of 95 per cent.