Gov sets COVID testing target at 500-600 per day

| 08/04/2020 | 18 Comments
Cayman News Service
Test kits from South Korea unloaded from charter flight at Owen Roberts Airport

(CNS): With the arrival of 165,000 test kits from South Korea on Wednesday and another 35,000 en route, Governor Martyn Roper said the Cayman Islands would now be able to step up testing to between 500 and 600 per day. He said the increase in the target for testing would form part of the strategy to manage the COVID-19 pandemic here. However, Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee said there was a lot of work to do to expand the testing capacity and that it would take time.

There were no new test results to be reported to the public Wednesday as Dr Lee gave his update. He said the laboratory was going through tests to prepare for the new kits that have arrived. But he confirmed that 48 samples would be running through the lab and those results would be ready this evening or tomorrow.

He revealed that one of the two patients at the hospital who had tested positive for COVID-19 had been discharged after recovering from respiratory problems caused by the virus. Meanwhile, another 19 patients are in isolation at home with mild symptoms, another 15 are asymptomatic and ten have recovered. (See the latest figures here)

With the arrival of the bulk of the 200,000 consignment of kits, the governor said testing could be ramped up and would become part of the overall strategy of tackling this pandemic.

Speaking at Wednesday’s press briefing, Roper said they were now “in a very good position to step up testing” to 500 to 600 per day as soon as possible, adding that this was “a key part of our strategy in suppressing this virus and hopefully being able to relax and open up at some point in the future”.

But Dr Lee explained there were a number of steps in the process that had to be addressed before testing could be ramped up to significant numbers.

Although the number of test kits that have now arrived will allow Cayman to move away from the limiting World Health Organization criteria and widen who gets tested, this would not happened right away. He warned that the laboratories would be challenged now to increase the testing capacity and it was import that the health authority paid attention to quality assurance. Dr Lee said we would not want to push labs too hard and they would not allow that, so we can rely on the results.

To increase testing he said swabs were a priority and we have around 1,000 of those on island. The next step is deactivating the infection of samples in a bio-safety cabinet. Dr Lee said there are four of these on island: one at HSA, one at the CTMH Doctors Hospital and two at Health City Cayman Islands, but one of those is exclusively for chemotherapy and so cannot be used for COVID tests.

He said the HSA has ordered two more but at present there is only one technician that can work the cabinets and handle infectious material at the HSA, though two more are being trained.

The lack of cabinets has reduced the capacity of testing so far to just 150 a day, but once the cabinets have arrived and the labs are able to cope, testing could be increased, he said.

However, Dr Lee also said that there was a robot that works with the PCR machine which needed supplies and that the supply chain needed to be shored up too. He said that over the next ten days or so, the testing would begin to increase, heading eventually towards a capacity at the HSA of around 500 samples per day.

The CMO said that there was considerable collaboration between the hospitals, with the HCCI doing the lab work and the Doctors Hospital working on getting their PCR testing machine ready. The aim was to create a countrywide approach with everyone using the same system, he explained.

Once the additional testing begins, Dr Lee said that, in addition to testing healthcare workers and front-line staff such as supermarket employees, the goal was to start testing those individuals who have potentially been exposed but not shown symptoms or those who have shown mild symptoms but did not not fit the previous WHO criteria for testing.

Dr Lee confirmed that the HSA has kept track of this group of people as they were self isolating. He said public health professionals would want to test them as it would give us a better idea of the prevalence of COVID-19 within the community.

Today’s press briefing is not yet posted to the CIGTV YouTube page but can be seen on the CIG Facebook page here.


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Category: Health, health and safety

Comments (18)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Test test test! Awesome job Cayman i
    n not following the example of the UK.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am not taking any test that tests for anything other than Covid-19 alone.

  3. Anonymous says:

    A free patty or a loaf of hard dough bread with every test and you’ll have everyone tested in a week.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m not getting tested.

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  5. Anon says:

    We should test the Minister of Health first, he is captain of the medical ship in Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, and needs to be protected at all costs. I pray for him every day.

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  6. Elvis says:

    Awesome. HSA. Docs, nurses, police. Prison. Govt. New prison and police receptions.
    Oh can we test those fake stay at homers pretend flu babies in the hope of getting them to work again please?

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank you to Susan Olde OBE and the Dart Organization, none of it would have been possible without your generous financial and logistical donations.

    THANK YOU!!

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Have a drive through testing area, that would be nice! BRACKA.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    get ready for alot more positives…but its part of the way of getting over this and we can’t hide from it.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    do the kits also have swabs? or do we have 165000 kits and 1000 swabs?

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    • Anonymous says:

      As Dr Lee explained, there are a variety of other bottle necks in our local testing chain…bio-hoods, certified technicians, swabs (10-12 used per individual), etc. Someone could be negative on snapshot date of their test, but subsequently become exposed to the virus in the 110+ days it would currently take to test everyone resident (ie. end of July). Better that we all stay home until an all-clear can be sounded in two-four weeks. We still wouldn’t be able to safely go anywhere until reliable all-clears are proclaimed from our normal travel routes. Those recovered and certified with lab-proven COVID-19 antibodies may be the only people allowed to travel in 6-12 mos to avoid a second wave of re-infection here and elsewhere.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds like the latter

  11. Anonymous says:

    just 105 days of lockdown if we are testing everyone that’s july 25th if we start today

  12. Anonymous says:

    I am getting test anxiety. I need to study!

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  13. Anonymous says:

    That’s great news. Testing is key.

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