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Prime Minister: We are working on reducing backlog for testing; rapid tests will now be employed

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Posted: Friday, August 28, 2020. 3:07 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: As of this weekend, says Prime Minister Dean Barrow, the backlog on testing at the Central Medical Laboratory will start to be reduced, though he warned that the Ministry of Health will have to account for contacts of those who test positive.

It is a problem he says that has engulfed the region and the world as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage.

On average, PCR tests are returned in 24 hours (currently 4 to 5 days due to the backlog); GeneXpert tests in 3 to four hours and rapid antigen tests that can produce results in as little as 15 minutes.

The problem with the last, the Prime Minister reminded, is their validity and no rapid test has reached compatibility with the PCR until the recently-announced FDA (Food and Drug Administration)-cleared Abbott Labs BinaxNow rapid COVID-19 test, which has high degrees of specificity (98.5 percent), or the instance of false positives and sensitivity (97.1 percent), almost on par with the “gold standard” PCR tests.

The United States has already struck a deal for 150 million of these tests, but Abbott is prepared to begin producing and shipping in the tens of millions elsewhere in the region and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is working out a deal of its own, but it is too soon to tell.

The regional health body is calling for higher daily testing and faster results and suggests that rapid antigen tests should back up PCR tests, though not completely replace it, in certain circumstances and “prioritized” for the following: testing suspected cases that appear to be symptomatic and contacts of patients confirmed with COVID-19. The PCR test remains a back-up for positive COVID-19 cases by rapid antigen and it has recommended, though not validated, two types of such tests made by SD-BioSensor. According to the Prime Minister, the National Oversight Committee was already contemplating this plan but had delayed.

The upshot is that as soon as the weekend sweep of the North is concluded, one of the rapid antigen tests will be used specifically to test contacts of these persons and those who are upright but having symptoms.

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