Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, has announced that three private labs have been approved to offer testing for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
They are Caribbean Genetics (CARIGEN), Microlabs Limited and Technological Solutions Limited.
CARIGEN and Microlabs Limited have been approved to offer the PCR test, while Technological Solutions Limited will conduct environmental testing.
Dr. Tufton made the disclosure during a digital press conference and COVID-19 Conversations at the S Hotel in Montego Bay, St James on Thursday (October 29).
“This has been long in the making, but I am happy to say that we are now at a point where the validation studies have been done, the standards have been established and verified,” he said.
The Minister informed that approval was finalized last week, following extensive discussions, “testing and re-testing,” to ensure that the “public is protected and they get what they pay for from a public health stand-point.”
Dr. Tufton pointed out that CARIGEN, based at the University Hospital of the West Indies, will work in tandem with Microlabs, which has facilities across the island, to test for COVID-19 and return the results to individuals.
“So you can go to a Microlabs and they are all over the country, you can get swabbed, samples collected, sent in to CARIGEN and CARIGEN will do the test and send back the results,” the Minister explained.
He further emphasized that the entities are required to furnish the Ministry with the necessary statistics regarding testing.
“These set up in the private space will require a reporting mechanism, because from a public health stand point, we need to know how many people are positive in the country, how many tests are done, how many are negative that is critical for public health planning and for decision making at the highest possible level including the level of cabinet and Government,” Dr. Tufton stated.
He added that the environmental testing to be conducted by Technological Solutions Limited will include testing for COVID-19 on surfaces in public spaces.
In the meantime, the Health and Wellness Minister disclosed that within weeks, additional collaboration between private entities will be announced in relation to antigen testing.
“At least eight labs are undergoing training with the Pan American Health Organization and our public health team, so that they can in fact source the antigen tests which [has] a shorter turnaround time [and] more conducive under certain circumstances to determine if you are positive for COVID-19 or not,” Dr. Tufton said.