Health officials continue to supply samples to test for new variants

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas (file photo)
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By Elesha George

[email protected]

Health officials are on the lookout for new variants of coronavirus, as the number of Covid cases continue to increase.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, said select samples will be sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to investigate whether any of the new variants of coronavirus are presently in Antigua and Barbuda.

Currently, three mutations of the SARS-Co-V-2 virus exist from the UK, South Africa and Brazil.

“From since October of 2020, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, in collaboration with the University of the West Indies, they have been looking at our samples to see whether or not we have, at that time, the UK variant. So far, we have not had that variant discovered in Antigua and Barbuda,” she said.

Sealey-Thomas also said that checks were already being conducted to identify the UK virus, but moving forward, select samples from specimens in Antigua and Barbuda will be sent to CARPHA to identify whether any of the three variants have been imported into the country.

Meanwhile, further efforts are needed on the front line so that health officials can produce a higher PCR test turn around.

Dr Lester Simon, consultant pathologist at the Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC), said that the country is particularly short on laboratory technicians.

“The greatest issue we have had with Covid in the laboratory has to do with human resources, has to do with laboratory workers, medical laboratory technologists“… “There’s one thing that Covid has done that we cannot forget; is to unearth some fault lines we have had in health for donkey years which include the medical laboratory technologist who are literally the engine room at the hospital,” he explained.

With a surplus of 8000 tests available for use at the MSJMC, the doctor said the challenge has not been a want of supply.

“You can’t tell people what to study,” he remarked, hopeful that more of these workers will be available in the job market in the coming years.

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