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Health Ministry condemns rumour on fake, contaminated COVID-19 test kits

by Samuel Sukhandan

An audio recording related to coronavirus (COVID-19) which has emerged, claiming that testing kits are possibly fake and contaminated, has been condemned by the Ministry of Health.

In the audio recording, which has been widely distributed on social media, an unknown woman urged people not to get tested because her brother who is a pharmacist was informed by a friend with “links to Georgetown Hospital and the Ministry” not to get his family tested.

The woman claimed “they got 100 new kits from China and all the new tests they did today were positive” and that is mainly because the kits came contaminated. She went on to say, “Chinese want to infect people…so whatever they puttin on the kits them, when they push it in you, them infecting you with the virus.”

But Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony said in a statement Friday that it is a “deliberate, irresponsible and reckless campaign to spread fake news relating to COVID-19 testing.” He clarified that there are no fake tests in the national system and no country is sending contaminated tests to Guyana.

According to the minister, 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 the Caribbean, 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,” he added.

Minister Anthony noted that 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 and swabs which are used to obtain specimens from tested individuals were procured by PAHO/WHO.

“The test procedures we use in Guyana follow international standards and are 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,” he explained.

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.

Further, Dr. Anthony explained that Guyana’s testing capacity is being increased dramatically, moving from an average of 30 to 100 tests per day. Guyana, for the first time, was able to surpass the 200 mark on August 19 and did 248 on August 20. By early next week, testing could meet 300 in one day.

Dr. Anthony said, “One PCR machine with three shifts at this time is being utilised and the government envision using multiple PCR machines by the end of the month, dramatically increasing the capacity for COVID-19 testing. The increase in positive COVID-19 cases at present is largely the consequence of Government’s effort to increase testing.”

The health minister said this therefore means that cases previously undetected because of low testing rates 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.”

To date, Guyana has 881 confirmed cases of COVID-19, marking an increase by 35 new cases. There are now 31 deaths. Eight persons are an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Statistics show that 77 are in institutional isolation, 333 are in approved home isolation.