Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says training arrangements are being finalised to facilitate local testing for coronavirus COVID-19 variants.
Jamaica acquired a genome sequencing machine to test for COVID-19 variants in late October. It is located at the National Influenza Centre (NIC) at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).
Speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (November 30), Dr. Tufton said that testing has not yet commenced.
“Currently, we are finalising training dates with the manufacturer and selecting the samples that will be used during the training period. At the same time, we are in the process of procuring a second sequencer, through leased funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and construction work has begun at National Public Health Laboratory, where this second sequencer will be housed,” he informed.
He said that personnel to facilitate the training are expected in the island shortly.
“We would have liked to have commissioned this machine earlier, but we have to coordinate with the manufacturers and there is a global demand for the training and the experts, who are limited, for commissioning this type of machine. The reports I have from the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), coordinating with the Ministry’s personnel is that in a sense, we are in a queue, but we do expect that those personnel will come in, hopefully, over the next week or so for training to take place,” he added.
The Minister noted that as those details are being finalised, the Ministry continues to collaborate with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), CDC and Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to send samples for genome sequencing.
For this week, the Ministry has sent some 49 samples to PAHO, 80 to CDC and 20 to CARPHA.