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Covid-19 testing advances months later

The Ministry of Health is pinching their testing kits; not because it is running low but because they are battening down for the long run.  This is according to the Prime Minister when he spoke of the demands being made for PCR testing by those leaving Belize via the airport.

Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “We’re not yet close to any point where we’re running short of testing supplies. Still, this looks like it is really going to be a long haul campaign and in those circumstances we cannot afford to use up supplies that could conceivably in the not too distant future become short, become scarce. We’ve seen where some people have come in on that airline the acronym of which I think is TAG from some of our neighboring countries but they come for a short stay and when they are about to return to their country of origin they are asking that our health authorities administer them with a PCR test. I’m afraid that won’t do. We cannot afford the extra strain on our PCR testing resources so we’ll put all this information out and they must know if you come to Belize you’re able to gain entry and you stay here what requirements you have to satisfy to get back into your country in order to avoid quarantine is matter for you. It can’t be that you will feel there’s an obligation on the part of the Government of Belize to test you and give you as it were a kind of exit certificate by way of a negative PCR test. Even Belizeans who now want to travel because the PGIA is opened, Belizeans who have been at home all this while and they want to go out of the country please if it is non essential travel do not expect our health authorities to administer a PCR test to you. If it is essential travel that’s a different story.”

The Government of Belize is giving the green light to private facilities to begin conducting Covid-19 testing.  Months ago the Director of Health Services had cited the need to have all health facilities using similar kits that the ministry has deemed accurate and reliable.  With a list of requirements for testing the ministry is now collaborating with private hospitals.

Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “Private medical facilities will be allowed to conduct COVID-19 tests but using only the types of brands of tests approved by the Ministry of Health and they must adhere to the protocols and guidelines set by the Ministry. They will have to of course report their test results to the Ministry of Health but we use as you know the SD BioSensor and I believe one of the private facilities has already ordered some SD Biosensors. There are other facilities and perhaps Dr.Manza will speak a little bit more expansively to this that have sought permission for other brands. In one case Ministry of Health did it’s validation exercise and found that that particular test was absolutely not up to scratch and so that makes the point that except these private facilities who will now be allowed to test are prepared to use the tests that we can certify as being reliable as you can get unless they can do that they will not be permitted to bring in tests in which the Ministry of Health can have no confidence. So far the two tests that are good to go are as I said earlier the SD BioSensor and the GeneXpert rapid tests. Now remember the GeneXpert is a form of PCR and already there is one facility, one private facility that has indicated to Dr.Manza that they are prepared to invest in the GeneExpert machine and GeneXpert rapid test. So as I understand it and if I am being inaccurate in any way Dr.Manza can correct me when he comes to speak but as I understand it there are two facilities that are basically already queued up, one that will be using the SD BioSensor rapid antigen tests and another that is proposing to use the GeneXpert PCR rapid test.”

Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “As of this morning there’s still 20,000 PCR tests available, there’s thirteen SD BioSensor rapid tests are available and I understand another 10,000 coming in through PAHO later on today so that will be 23,000- this is the SD Bio Sensor that we’re using now at the airport and we’re doing it when we do sweeps like in communities up north.”

Belize’s inventory of testing kits may be able to stretch out for a bit longer as several airlines are now making it mandatory for passengers to do a pretest prior to boarding.  Prime Minister Dean Barrow spoke on this aspect of the airport precautionary measures.

Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “We all saw the news indicating that American Airlines for one is looking to trial a pre-boarding testing for persons that are using American Airlines to travel to the Caribbean. We understood that they were going to begin with Jamaica and The Bahamas but the expectation is that it would then be extended to all the Caribbean destinations to which American flies. That has not yet advanced to the point where we can say it is definitely happening in terms of Belize but we clearly hope and expect that that’s how things will turn up and that will assist us greatly in terms of process flow if people can be tested before boarding their flights in Miami or Houston or Los Angeles or Atlanta or wherever that will when again we begin to experience this robust flow of visitors that can help us with moving people through the airport as quickly as possible because everybody then would be certified as having tested and proven negative by American Airlines and we expect that that sort of thing will extend to other airlines. I believe Delta has already started, United started in terms of San Francisco to Hawaii, that sort of thing so it’s coming and we have great hope that that will also assist us.”