The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW), Jamaica anticipates that antigen testing for COVID-19 will begin in late October.
The move, which was announced at the weekly COVID-19 press briefing on September 17, responds to the local demand for tests and forms a part of efforts to bolster surveillance and monitoring activities amidst the community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.
“With the antigen test, there is a quicker turn-around, availability closer to the point of care and less requirements for processing, which allows for more service sites in the private and public sectors,” said Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton.
An initial 80,000 test kits (SD Biosensor F200) are being procured by the local PAHO/WHO office for the MOHW, and should arrive in the island within another four weeks. The next two weeks are to see the provision of theoretical training to partners from the public and private sectors in the administration of the tests. Practical training will follow post arrival of the test kits.
The test – which will be administered only to symptomatic patients while serving as a complement to the current gold standard in testing, the PCR test – is to be piloted in major hospitals by the National Public Health Laboratory. Full implementation will follow in other hospitals and health centres, and by private laboratory operators.
“We are not replacing the PCR test,” emphasised Director of Laboratory Services with the MOHW, Dr. Michelle Hamilton.
“We are introducing the test to help to broaden the base for testing and to help to reduce the turnaround time within which test results are available. But we still need the PCR test, which is the gold standard,” she added.
All antigen tests will have to be ordered by a physician. In addition, results are to be reported daily to the MOHW.