Belize currently uses the PCR and GeneXpert methods of testing for covid-19. While reliable, these take a significant amount of time to process the result. Rapid antigen and antibody tests are quicker, but are not as accurate as the ones Belize currently uses. In today’s press conference by the Prime Minister, he spoke about another rapid test that appears to be as accurate as the PCR tests.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “Yesterday as you in the media will know news was globally circulated about the breakthrough development of and FDA clearance for the Abbott Labs Binax Now rapid coronavirus antigen test. That test is 97.1% sensitive – meaning that it correctly diagnoses those with infection those tested it correctly diagnosis those tested that do have the infection 97.1% of the time. It is also, that new Abbott Lab Binax Now rapid coronavirus antigen test, it is also 98.5% specific. You’re dealing first with sensitivity then you deal with specificity and what that means is that an infection is correctly ruled out 98.5% of the time. This high degree of specificity deals with the problem of false negatives and it is this possibility, probability perhaps, of false negatives that has been the bane of other rapid tests. It therefore now puts the Abbott rapid test right on par with the PCR regular tests.”
The next step is to see how smaller countries like Belize will be able to procure such a test. PM Barrow explained the Pan American Health Organization’s statements on this matter.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “Abbott has said that it will be shipping the tests in the tens of millions next month right here September starting next week and it would increase to fifty million tests per month starting October. I repeat the question is whether and how soon small countries such as Belize will get this test. PAHO we are informed is seeking to source a supply for the region but it is too early to know about success, it is too early to know about timeliness. Meantime though PAHO has sought to address the current problem of the testing bottlenecks that Belize such as Jamaica, the Bahamas and others Belize is facing. In a paper dated August 24th 2020 PAHO recognizes that in the face of our outbreak an objective now must be to decentralize testing to provide access to point of care diagnosis for COVID-19 at the community level, at the out patient services level and at the remote areas level. Thereby PAHO is saying there’s a need to increase the daily number of samples processed and the turn around time for results. The only way to do this PAHO more or less concludes – because PAHO is very careful and whatever they say they will try to nuance to death- but as I read their paper the only way to try to achieve the objectives that they’ve set out is for a country such as Belize to have recourse to the antigen rapid tests as a mean of supplementing the PCR tests. Accordingly PAHO says that while antigen detection cannot completely replace the PCR detection antigen testing should be considered in certain cases indeed they should be prioritized – PAHOs word not mine- they should be prioritized for the following: the testing of suspected cases that appear to by symptomatic and the testing of contacts of confirmed patients.”
PAHO stated, however, that they have no validated any antigen rapid tests for themselves.