COVID-19: Automatic machines being sourced to cut testing turnaround time from 9hrs to 2hrs

His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali being tested for the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) recently

President Irfaan Ali has announced that the Government is in the process of sourcing two new automatic machines to boost the COVID-19 testing capacity of the country’s health system; which would result in the testing turnaround time being reduced from 9 hours to 2 hours.

According to President Ali, this will not only clear the backlog but significantly improve the country’s capacity to do mass testing, which will become necessary in the eventual opening up of the economy and country.

The Head of State made this disclosure during an address to the nation on Wednesday evening where he announced a range of measures to bring relief to citizens and businesses due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the President, the Minister of Health has advised that a number of interventions have been made to improve test turnaround time, testing capability, human resource capacity, infrastructure and equipment.

He pointed out that to this effect, the Government has been able to move from a situation where the health system had less than 10,000 N-95 masks two weeks ago, to a current situation where it now has approximately 65,000 N-95 masks available and an additional 25,000 on order.

“Testing has moved from a position of 40-60 per day to 96-140 per day. Notwithstanding this significant improvement, there is a backlog of 700 tests results. This is as a result of the manual PCR machines currently used and also the lack of medical technologists.
“Two weeks ago, we had one medical technologist working. By the end of this week, 30 new medical technologists will be trained in PCR testing from both the public and private sector and will be available from next week,” Dr Ali said.

In relation to ventilators, the President noted that there currently four in operation at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). However, he expressed that by next week, 29 additional ventilators will be in the country to be utilised not only at GPHC but in all the regions.

“The Ministry has also advised that additional healthcare personnel, including doctors, have been deployed to hotspot areas in Regions Seven and Nine,” the President related.

President Ali also announced that in dealing with issues of isolation, the Ministry would convert the inoperable Infectious Disease Centre to an isolation centre. On this basis, he noted that arrangements are being made to have a facility that caters to at least 150 patients requiring isolation.