More reagents for COVID-19 tests headed to Cayman

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A fresh batch of reagents has been dispatched to Cayman to supplement the current supply at the Health Services Authority for local COVID-19 testing, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee confirmed on Friday.

Speaking at a COVID-19 press briefing, Lee said the additional supply was on its way to Cayman; however, he did not say how many tests were in the shipment.

At last count, a total of 480 kits had been available on island, some of which were used for tests conducted last week. A total of 88 tests have been carried out so far, with three cases confirmed – all associated with the Italian cruise ship passenger who died at Health City Cayman Islands Saturday, 14 March.

At a briefing on Thursday, Lee addressed the reagents and testing, saying it was a “dynamic situation”.

He said this is an issue worldwide and “we all know how it’s difficult to get things in a small island”.

Cayman, he explained, has limitations on the amount of reagents that can be dispensed at the moment.

As it stands now, tests are only being conducted on those people who meet the international protocols for testing, such as travel history to countries with reports of infections, and displaying symptoms.

“If we had limitless supply, we would have a different process, but we have to work where we are at the moment,” Lee said.

Requests for reagents have been sent to Public Health England, he said, but that agency advised him that “they’re finding it really difficult to source all sorts of materials and supplies that we need for this particular condition”.

Lee added, “More reagents should be coming from the Pan American Health Organization … some are already on their way, but again it’s not a huge supply.”

He pointed out that there are kits where a drop of blood can be tested, but the results of such tests need to be validated.

The whole attitude on how testing is conducted will change, he said, “if you know testing is readily available”.

“At the moment, it’s not readily available, so we have to follow protocols in order to make sure that we keep the population as safe as we can with the reagents that we have,” Lee added.

In the “unlikely event” that Cayman runs out of reagents, he said the Health Services Authority will continue sending samples of suspect cases to the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad for testing.

Meanwhile, Premier Alden McLaughlin said while Cayman has no evidence of community transmission of the virus, the “harsh reality” is last year 2.5 million visitors arrived in Cayman and many Caymanians and residents have travelled overseas.

“It is almost inevitable that there will be other people in this community who test positive for COVID-19,” he said. “That is why the protocols and the advice that we continually give about how to change your behaviours in light of this global health threat are so important.”

Governor Martyn Roper said at Friday’s briefing there was a lot of work going on to develop a vaccine, but the process will take time. He pointed out that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that a home testing kit is being developed which would be rolled out very quickly and “that would then offer the possibility of being tested and, if you’re clear, you would be able to go back into the workforce.”

Once available, he said, it will also be extended to overseas territories.

Full coverage: Coronavirus

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