St. Vincent and the Grenadines has missed the March target but is closer to in-country testing for COVID-19.
“Now, I’m happy to report that just as recently as this past weekend, St. Vincent and Grenadines received 400 testing kits supplied by PAHO (the Pan-American Health Organisation) and that is an important development along our road to testing,” Minister of Health, Senator Luke Browne told Parliament on Tuesday.
He said that his ministry has ordered a PCR instrument, which is required for testing for the viral illness.
“And this is something which is reflected in the laboratory provision,” Browne said during the debate on the EC$74 million supplementary estimates that Parliament passed with bipartisan support.
He said that the fiscal package includes EC$160,000 for materials for laboratory services “to help us with the procurement of the machine, and to help us through the procurement of kits, which are necessary for the functioning of the machine.
“We have the kits in hand, several kits in hand, and we’re hoping to get the machine sorted out,” Browne said.
He, however, added that as he reported at a press conference last Friday, “there’s a difficulty with the machine itself, because of the fact that there are restrictions on the movement of some of these machines at this particular time considering what is happening in other countries.
He said he did not think it necessary to get into the details of what is happening in those other countries.
“But notwithstanding that, I should also report that we have an instrument in country already — GeneXpert instrument… And we now, would be able to use that GeneXpert instrument to carry out tests in St. Vincent and Grenadines if required, as long as we get the compatible, again, kits, in relation to the GeneXpert instrument.
“So it’s a work in progress and we’re exploring all options and all avenues in bolstering our testing capacity.”
At this point, Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday asked Browne if he was saying that his ministry is about to do COVID-19 tests in St. Vincent.
“We have the machine that would allow us to do testing. And as I said afterwards that we need kits that would be required specific to that GeneXpert machine.
“The 400 kits are in relation to a different type of machine, the PCR instrument. We’re not doing any in country testing right now.”
He, however, said that SVG is able to have testing done, as required through its arrangement.
“So far, we have tested 56 persons for COVID-19,” the minister said.
“And if you compare the testing that we do, by reference to all population sizes, you’d recognise that we are actually doing favourably in that respect by regional comparison.
“So, we are doing testing. There is a provision here to assist us further with testing. And we are essentially exploring all avenues, all other avenues, so that we could be in the best possible position to detect cases,” the health minister told parliament.