The Cayman Islands government has sold 50,000 of its COVID-19 test kits to an international charity for use in Zimbabwe.

The ELMA Relief Foundation paid US$1.1 million (CI$902,000) for the tests.

A statement from the Governor’s Office on Friday, said ELMA has donated the test kits to the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which is sending them to Zimbabwe “which is one of the most resource-constrained countries in Africa facing an urgent shortage of such test kits as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads”.

As of Monday, 3,921 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Zimbabwe, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Centre statistics. Media reports in Zimbabwe state that the country’s health department has reported that around 1,200 tests are completed daily for a population of more than 14 million.

Earlier this year, the Cayman Islands government, in partnership with local philanthropist Susan Olde, sourced 200,000 kits from South Korea at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that Cayman could test large numbers.

The overall cost of the tests was US$4.4 million (CI$3.6 million), or US$22 (CI$18) per kit. Government picked up the bill for half the cost, while Olde donated the other half.

Some of the excess test kits already have been sold to regional partners in Bermuda and Barbados, and others were donated to St. Lucia.

Cayman is one of the top three countries in the world for COVID testing per capita. As of Friday, 31 July, 30,122 tests had been conducted locally.

Premier Alden McLaughlin, commenting on the sale of test kits for ELMA, said he was pleased Cayman was a part of an international effort.

He added that Cayman’s supply of test kits were “robust”.

“I am delighted that these vital supplies will be going to support vulnerable communities in Africa, and that Cayman was able to play a part in that, as well as supporting other Caribbean countries. Our stocks of COVID testing supplies remain robust and we continue to look at innovative solutions to help us navigate through this crisis,” he said in the statement.

According to the press release, the operation to move the kits from frozen storage in George Town to southern Africa was coordinated by ELMA, the Health Services Authority and the Governor’s Office.

“The kits provided under the arrangement with ELMA leaves Cayman with sufficient supplies going forward,” the statement added.

Governor Martyn Roper welcomed Cayman’s participation.

“I am very grateful to the ELMA Relief Foundation for organising this initiative. We purchased an excess of COVID tests to ensure Cayman’s resilience at a crucial point in the pandemic. Our options in terms of testing have now expanded and it is great that our surplus kits will be going to assist with COVID response in Africa,” he said in the statement.

About ELMA

The ELMA Relief Foundation is a private foundation focussed on supporting relief efforts in countries around the world facing humanitarian crises.

For more than a decade, it has been supporting organisations helping countries and communities respond to and recover from crises such as Ebola in West Africa, cyclones in Southern Africa, earthquakes in Haiti and hurricanes in the Caribbean. It is currently heavily involved in supporting COVID-19-response efforts in various resource-constrained countries, mainly in Africa.

One of ELMA’s partners in the COVID-19 response effort in Africa is the Clinton Health Access Initiative, established in 2002 by the Clinton Foundation, founded by former US President Bill Clinton.

CHAI has also been supporting the World Health Organization to procure and deliver COVID-19 supplies, such as personal protective equipment, diagnostics, and oxygen supplies to countries across the developing world. In Africa, in addition to assisting with the procurement of essential COVID-19 supplies, CHAI supports laboratory systems to run COVID-19 testing, and health systems in managing oxygen and respiratory support to manage severe cases of COVID-19.

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  1. Out of the 200,000 test kits that we acquired through the generosity of Ms. Olde 35,000 were sold to Barbados and 20,000 to Bermuda. Now another 50,000 to Zimbabwe.

    In theory we should still have plenty left. Unless the opening of the borders causes a second wave.

    The Bahamas opened their borders for just 3 weeks but have closed them again to USA visitors after a spike. Apparently some people were arriving with forged negative test results!

    ““Regrettably, the situation here at home has already deteriorated since we began the reopening of our domestic economy,” said Minnis, who has been serving as the island nation’s acting health minister since May. “It has deteriorated at an exponential rate since we reopened our international borders.””