The Ministry of Health has conducted over one hundred and sixty tests over the last week. There is, however, a need for some elements for the testing kits. Dr. Manzanero, via today’s edition of the Ask the Expert, spoke on this aspect as well as incoming health supplies.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “We have done close to 170 test over the last six days. Some days you have a bigger batch going in. I do have to stress like we had said we’re anticipating that the swabs that we use for doing the testing and the enzymes that are needed for the testing because it’s not just the actual test that you need but you need extraction enzymes, verification enzymes, those should be arriving tomorrow. We did follow up on the Cayman Island offer we spoke with people who are directly linked to the Cayman Islands Lab in the Cayman Islands and they indicated that their enzymes for the testing kits that they have they’re on a backlog order that will last between six to eight weeks so even if we are to procure those kits our backlog will perhaps be longer than six to eight weeks so for now we’re going to keep on with the actual PCR platform testing kits and hoping that we’re getting all those enzymes tomorrow. We’re anticipating also that some of the equipment that we had paid for, PPEs and all those other ventilators should be arriving tomorrow, even the supplies from PAHO that were supposed to arrive – the reactions are here we got 2,500 reactions for doing testing but the other elements have not arrived. The COMISCA documents that we had signed off one month ago on March 24th are also pending for arrival but it’s important that we stress where we are in terms of that.”
One of the questions that have been posted on social media is the reasoning behind no increase in positive cases. Is it that the precautionary measures in place are working? Or could it be that enough people are not being tested? The Health Director touched on this topic and announced that they will be embarking on what they refer to as a testing sweep.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “We are reviewing with the team how we’re going to expand our testing because one of the reasons why you also have less people being swabbed is people are having less and less flu like symptoms or at least they’re not showing up in the health facility. We had said also that our traditional flu season usually goes from October to March we are in the month of April so we believe that it’s following the pattern we would have expected with epi curves then so the numbers are significantly low. As a matter of fact yesterday we went for a period of four to six hours where nobody called the 0800 number and I think we need to stress that and the calls that keep coming in most of this morning, I checked before I came here, have to do with the social elements that are now attached to COVID-19; people asking when we’re going back to being normal, when they could get back to work, the food situation, social situations that we are well aware of but that’s the 0800MOHCARE is not able to address all of your concerns in that regard and they are being channeled. So we are going to go back and review where it is that we’re going to be testing because we’ve tested all those patients who are hospitalized and have influenza like illnesses and severe acute respiratory illnesses so we’re consider we’re considering we may open it up more to have people having some other condition and maybe Thursday / Friday do what we would call a sweep of secondary or even tertiary contacts that are symptomatic of the initial cases as we move along. The last four cases that we reported was last week Monday but they had been swabbed on the Saturday and Sunday before we actually announced the results so I think it’s important that we say that.”
The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests are the ones being used in Belize. Recently there have been reports of false negatives in some tests conducted. The Ministry of Health, however, is doing multiple tests after various periods as laid out by Dr. Manzanero.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “Yes we do PCR tests that still remain the gold standard for testing for COVID-19. The case recovery definition in other jurisdictions they have said test at day fourteen and then if that is negative test at day fifteen. We’re changing that a little because we are noticing that our patients at day fourteen are still turning out positive and when you read the literature, and again we’re all learning as we move along, some literature is saying even at day twenty seven we have had some people up to day thirty four people are still positive so we are routinely doing swabbing at day fourteen, if that is positive we don’t swab you again until day twenty one. If that’s negative then we run a second sample so that we’re able to determine whether you have recovered. If you are still positive at day twenty one we will make an assessment and perhaps swab you seven days later and that’s simply because depending on the condition we may change that but that’s where we’re going for right now. Will persons recovered still be expected to remain quarantined? We’ll we’re not necessarily having viral shedding, what we would still recommend for people who are recovered is that they still wear a mask, they still do their own processes and that’s just as an abundance of caution and noticing what other countries are reporting that’s what you see when people say that they have come back to be positive again seems to be not a reinfection but the fact that the virus never really went away so we will still ask that people take necessary precaution even though you have two negative samples.”
To date, it is still uncertain whether a recovered patient can be re-infected or if the virus remains inactive once contracted.