Health Minister condemns reckless campaign to spread fake news on COVID-19 testing

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Head of the COVID-19 mobile unit, Dr. Keon Harmon, demonstrates how a sample is taken

Following is a statement by Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony 

The Ministry of Health would like to strongly condemn a deliberate, irresponsible and reckless campaign to spread fake news relating to COVID-19 testing. There are no fake tests in the national system and no country is sending contaminated tests to Guyana.

Guyana has nurtured an international cooperation platform for COVID-19 testing and for the overall fight against COVID-19. Besides working with PAHO/WHO, Guyana is working closely with our counterparts in other Caribbean countries and with the Caribbean Public Health Agency which is headquartered in Trinidad. Guyana is working closely also with counterparts in the USA, Canada, Europe and other parts of the world.

Guyana is grateful for the support we are receiving from many countries around the world and we reject the attempt by misguided individuals trying to cast aspersion against any country.

The COVID-19 testing in Guyana is done with equipment and testing reagents from only validated and certified sources. The PCR testing for diagnostic purposes that is being done at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory is done with a PCR machine that is used widely in the Caribbean, the US, Canada and Europe and other parts of the world.

The COVID-19 test reagents which we presently used were supplied by PAHO/WHO. The swabs which we use to obtain specimens from persons who we test have been procured by PAHO/WHO.

The test procedures we use in Guyana follow international standards and is the same standards used in Caribbean countries and in North America and Europe.

Guyana has a well trained-COVID-19 Testing Staff and is about to significantly expand it. The laboratory staff presently engaged in COVID-19 testing, including the medical technologists, are highly qualified, certified for COVID-19 testing. Presently, an additional 30 Guyanese medical technologists are in training and will be certified this week as trained for COVID-19 testing, using the same equipment used in Barbados and other Caribbean countries and in the United States and other developed countries.

Our testing capacity is being increased dramatically. Until around June, Guyana’s testing was extremely limited, averaging about 30 tests per day.

By the end of July, Guyana was challenged to reach 100 tests per day, even though the demand was several times that. Since early August, President Irfaan Ali, Vice-President Bharat Jagdeo, Prime Minister Mark Philips and Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony have led a team to significantly increase the daily testing output.

Guyana, for the first time, was able to conduct 208 tests, the first time Guyana surpassed 200 tests in a day on Wednesday, August 19. On Thursday, August 20, Guyana completed 248 tests. By early next week, Guyana will reach for the first time 300 tests in a day.

There are now three shifts being done. While we are utilizing one PCR machine with three shifts at this time, we envision using multiple PCR machines by the end of the month, dramatically increasing our capacity for COVID-19 testing.

The increased in positive COVID-19 cases at present is largely the consequence of the Government’s effort to increase testing. This means cases previously undetected because of low testing rate are now being detected. As we are able to detect cases faster, Guyana will be able to ensure we stop the spread of COVID-19 faster. But this depends on all of us working together, each of us playing our role in the fight against COVID-19.

We urge every citizen to be responsible, practice good hygiene by washing hands with soap and water regularly or using hand sanitizers, ensure each person practice social distancing by staying away, at least six feet from each other and by wearing a mask every time you go out of the home.

Dr Frank Anthony

August 21, 2020