Health Services Authority forensic laboratory.
Cayman Islands hospital, George Town.

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Cayman will begin local testing for COVID-19 on Monday at the Health Services Authority forensic laboratory.

However, Public Health has said tests will only be performed for patients with a suspected case of COVID-19 who fit the criteria of symptoms for coronavirus.

Those criteria include include flu symptoms and travel history to countries with local transmission of the virus within the 14-day period, acute respiratory illness, having been in contact with confirmed or probable case or person with severe acute respiratory infection who requires hospitalisation, and no other etiology that fully explains the clinical presentation.

“The introduction of local testing will significantly reduce the waiting period, from 5-10 days to 24-48 hours, for confirmation of COVID-19,” the HSA said in a statement issued on Sunday said.

Prior to this, Cayman had to rely on the Caribbean Public Health Agency for testing.

The tests will be free, officials have said.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez said the reagent required to test samples with HSA’s polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine has now been validated in the laboratory.

“The ability for local testing is significant as it further enhances the capabilities of the HSA to not only detect COVID-19 in real time but also provides timely intervention in the management of patients and enhances our public health surveillance and will expedite response capabilities. Being able to test on-island will allow those persons who test negative to come out of home isolation as soon as they get results,” Williams-Rodriguez said in the statement.

A rapid deployment team from Public Health England has joined Cayman’s efforts to help suppress the spread the coronavirus.

The team consists of a communicable disease control consultant, a consultant microbiologist, and a laboratory quality expert.

“This rapid deployment team is being sent on our request because we are a UK Overseas Territory and [it] is funded through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee said in a brief comment to the Cayman Compass on Sunday.

On Friday, Governor Martyn Roper, speaking at a media briefing, said the team will help with local planning and case management. He said Cayman has “excellent infrastructure and medical professionals” and “we will come through this”.

“Public Health England have provided us with modelling which gives us more accurate information to help plan our response. Public Health England will also be supporting us with supplies of personal protection equipment. The laboratory has received kits for testing for COVID 19,” he said.

PCR testing is the recommended standard for COVID-19 by the WHO, PAHO and Public Health England.

“Test results from ‘rapid test kits’ will not be accepted or considered by the Public Health Department. Facilities with patients meeting the criteria to be tested for COVID-19 should collect the sample (nasopharyngeal swab for viral studies) and contact the HSA lab prior to sending the sample for testing,” the statement said.

The Health Services Authority is encouraging members of the public who are experiencing flu like symptoms to contact the flu hotline on 1-800-534-8600, 947-3077 or email [email protected].

Criteria for COVID-19 testing

• Flu symptoms and have a travel history to a country that has reported local transmission of COVID-19 disease during the 14 days prior to symptom onset; OR

• Any acute respiratory illness and who has been a contact of a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 disease during the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms; OR

• Severe acute respiratory infection and requires hospitalization and no other etiology that fully explains the clinical presentation

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