Sixteen of the eighteen patients who were confirmed with COVID-19 have all been declared as recovered in Belize. Health officials, however, are still monitoring these patients as they will be re-tested soon as explained by the Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero. He also explained that the anti-body testing will also begin in the coming weeks in Belize.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “We will come back and retest them. Hopefully when we come back and we test them we have antibody testing which is a blood sample because we would also want to be able to determine whether they developed immunity to COVID-19 that’s a very important part of the epidemiological profile that we want to establish in our patients.”
Reporter: Now talking about the antibody testing, the last time I heard about that you were waiting on approval from some entity or some organization can you just expand on that a bit and how early you think we’ll be able to start carrying out those test.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “PCR testing which is what we’re doing in country is still the gold standard for detecting SARScoV2 that’s what we’re doing in country. Antibody testing and rapid testing is different testing options that you can have which can give you a quicker turnaround time but they don’t replace PCR testing. So if we’re able to introduce antibody testing that’s really not to determine who is ill that’s basically trying to determine who has been affected. So if you do a pool sample in Belize City that would be to determine who may potentially have been exposed and never developed any sign or symptoms and patients we never picked up. So the approval for any test is usually done, WHO publishes a list of approved testing reagents be it antibody, rapid tests, the last time we checked I think there were seventy different companies rushing to produce these tests so once there’s an approved listing because that means it’s been validated, there’s a good specificity, a good sensitivity then we would be able to use that test. Belize doesn’t have those tests as yet.”
Reporter: Do you see a timeline ahead or it’s not certain yet?
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “Antibody testing hopefully we can have that by the end of this month, rapid testing I think by the end of this month you should have approved test as well. The challenge will be the same things that all smaller countries are going to have is when you have access to them because I mean we’re a smaller market we might be buying 10,000 tests there are people buying millions of tests so once you go to a production line and even if you have the money they’re gonna say well I’m going to sell the ones that are going to buy more.”
Despite the news of Belize having no confirmed active case of COVID-19 random testing is still occurring around the country. Dr. Manzanero told Love News yesterday that he cannot stress enough to the public that having no active case does not mean that Belize is COVID-free.
Dr.Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “We have not changed our rhetoric and we have not changed our message. The reason why I don’t want us to be caught up in this notion of a “COVID-19 free society” is because it might be misleading and I think people – we would not understand the message, we can’t let our guard down, that’s the reason why I’m being very cautious about not using that term. On the other hand I’m seeing people saying ‘Well you’re not doing enough testing you’ve only done one thousand one hundred-odd tests and that’s not enough.’ but when you compare rates to other countries that’s fairly comparative rates and we’ve been publishing those on social media. Randomization has started in Belize City I think has been the place that has done more random testing with front line people. If you look at the numbers also some numbers have started to increase for Stann Creek, Orange Walk that were lagging behind in terms of testing. We will continue to do testing randomized forms now at the different district levels, that call has gone out to the different regional management teams however we’re not going to be running testing every day unless you have somebody that you need to make a critical determination whether they are COVID-19 positive or not. So we’re going to set out a calendar of when we’re going to be running tests because you also want to have a pool of better resources. Understand that these people that you’re testing are asymptomatic persons so there’s no real situation that your clinical management is going to change if I don’t run your test but do it tomorrow. So today is Wednesday we’re not running tests today we’re pooling the samples the ones that we got yesterday after we started our run, the ones today and the ones for tomorrow tests will be run tomorrow another one on the weekend and we’ll probably be running cycles three to four times per week.”
Majority of the random testing has so far taken place in Belize City.