Rapid COVID-19 test project under way

November 26, 2020
Medical technologist Shaemar Wiles (left) preparing to test a sample for COVID-19 using one of the rapid antigen test kits. Looking on is Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.
Medical technologist Shaemar Wiles (left) preparing to test a sample for COVID-19 using one of the rapid antigen test kits. Looking on is Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.

While admitting that a 30-minute wait for a COVID-19 test result may be nerve-wrecking, Michelle Burke and Jasmine McCorkell welcome the idea.

They were at the Spanish Town Hospital yesterday as health ministry staff demonstrated how the new antigen COVID-19 rapid testing is done.

Burke and McCorkell, who were not there for the test, expressed satisfaction that should they take it, the results would be known almost immediately.

"Mi is a likkle coward yuh see mi ya, so it best to just do the test and get the results almost instantly than to wait two or more weeks. I have never done a test before but I think waiting 30 minutes for it gonna feel like when mi did a HIV test and a wait and cold sweat start wash me," Burke said. McCorkell said she believes that the new antigen rapid test would add normality to the lives of Jamaicans.

"It a go make people nervous knowing that within 30 minutes they will go in isolation or not, but the good thing is that if you are negative, your normal life will continue shortly because you would not have to quarantine for a long time and will put your mind at ease," she said.

Speaking at the beginning of the one-month pilot phase of the testing, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said the rapid tests will slash COVID-19 results processing time down from multiple days to 30 minutes. Currently, more than 50 persons have been trained to administer them.

Tufton stated that these tests have been deployed to nine locations across Jamaica in the public health system. If all goes well, then private labs will be given the green light to offer the rapid testing service.

" This is a very meaningful development for the country," he said. Tufton added that rapid tests would be applied to symptomatic patients as this is when the accuracy would be highlighted.

"If you get a negative in that case, persons will be required to do a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test so we have to put some measures in place to ensure that in adding the capacity, we are also ensuring that the information that we get is for the best interest of the patient, but also in terms of the management of the pandemic, the right information is passed on. Otherwise, we could create some chaos and that would not be good for public health," he said.

He said that he expected the cost for the rapid test would be extremely cheaper than the ones at private facilities.

Two tests were administered yesterday, the Standard Q test which does not require a machine, and results can be read after 15 minutes, and the Standard F test which is read on a small machine.

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