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The genome sequencing machine at the National Influenza Centre (NIC) at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) is now being utilised for the testing of the first batch of samples for coronavirus (COVID-19) variants.

The testing of samples is part of the training in the use of the machine, which got under way recently.

Addressing Thursday’s (January 20) COVID Conversations virtual press conference, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, said that professionals are being provided with the requisite training to operate the machine.

The Minister, who toured the NIC earlier in the day to get a first-hand look at the process, informed that six personnel have completed four of the seven days of training necessary to operate the machine.

“I am very happy to note that we are finally commissioning the use of the machine. We had gotten the machine some time ago but had to wait on the manufacturers to send the trainers. We do hope to get another machine sometime in the near future, but for now, this machine will provide, I think, our own training and a speedier response to how much of the strain is actually in the population,” he said.

Dr. Tufton said that the public will be notified about the results from the batch that is now being processed locally as soon as they become available.

“We still have samples outside of Jamaica and we will await the results of the testing around those samples,” he shared.

The Health Minister called for continued vigilance on the part of Jamaicans in adhering to the health control and prevention measures that have been outlined in the Disaster Risk Management Act.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, in her remarks, said with the commissioning into service of the machine, faster updates will be provided regarding COVID-19 variants in the country.

The genome sequencing machine was acquired last October through funding from the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, an agency of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

Data from genomic sequencing can provide information on which variants are the main drivers, which can help determine relevant containment measures.

 

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