Belize has increased its Covid-19 testing in recent weeks. While the Ministry of Health has been using the Central Medical Lab to the PCR testing, the Director of Health Services noted today that they are looking at expanding their testing capabilities.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “In terms of what we’re doing with testing, because we do need to stress that we are looking for options in terms of what we are going to be doing once you start going back to what you call a sense of where we were before once. If the borders open, if the airports open you need to have a plan in place because what we’re doing as you will all know is PCR testing that is the gold standard but it’s only being done at Central Medical Lab. So a second option we’re looking at is using something called a Gene Expert Template that’s also PCR testing, we already have two machines in country and those were traditionally used for tuberculosis, that machine is set up at Central Medical lab the second one is at the Western Regional Hospital and we’re in the process of procuring two more to have one in Orange Walk and one in Dangriga. The issue as with other testing options that you have is supplies. In discussions last Thursday with the supplier CEPHID* they have indicated that Belize’s quota if you will is one thousand fifty individual tests only which means you can only screen a thousand and fifty persons so we had anticipated that would have been a back up option in terms of he PCR that we do because the turn around time is quicker you can get four results in thirty minutes but if this is the supply we’re going to be getting that’s not really going to be able to sustain a national response. So what we have decided as a result of Thursday to now is that these Gene Expert machines would be used at the regional hospital since the output in terms of patients that they are routinely screening is much less than what we are doing at the national level. In terms of PCR testing on Friday is the record number of tests in a given day, we did a hundred and fifty tests. The previous amount we had done in one single day had been a hundred and two so it’s important that we stress that the work at the lab continues and that’s not really going to stop.”
When it comes to rapid testing, Belize is still not looking at that as a viable means of detecting Covid-19. Incidentally, patient number twenty one landed in Belize and presented a negative rapid test. Since it was not accepted by Belize’s health authorities, he was swabbed and the PCR testing showed positive for Covid-19. Dr Manzanero spoke of this particular case and other factors.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “We are only doing testing on Tuesday and Friday. We are considering shifting the days to Monday/ Thursday but for now it’s Tuesday and Friday. So people who arrive on the plane for example on Friday they are routinely swabbed and that would be processed the following Tuesday. The only reason why we ran the samples of this group that arrived on Friday is because they were doing quality controls this Saturday and that’s the reason why they went ahead and did the samples that they already had there. I know that in other places, in the US in particular, you cannot get a PCR test so easily and I’m saying this because three of the fifteen people that arrived on Friday came with a rapid test that has not been validated by the FDA and those results were negative so that would not have been enough for us right now given our current protocol and that’s why we went ahead and did a PCR and did confirm a case even though the person had a negative rapid test in the US.”