Highlights from today’s (14.05.2020) Virtual Health Media Conference

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In case you missed it, here are the key points from today’s Virtual Media Conference:

  • 821 Community Tests have been administered and all returned Negative for COVID-19.
  • The Ministry of Health has started an advertising campaign on “The New Normal” to tell the public how to protect themselves and prevent transmission of COVID-19. Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said it is the start of a new behaviour change model to adapt to the virus.
  • Principal Medical Officer of Health, Epidemiology, Dr. Naresh Nandram, provided an update on the National COVID-19 Testing Strategy. All tests are not the same. Dr. Nandram said, PCR Testing (molecular-based) remains the Gold Standard for testing for COVID-19 as it is recognised by the World Health Organization for accuracy as opposed to serological (blood) tests. He said rapid testing has not shown to be as reliable or accurate and is not useful in a hospital setting.
  • Dr. Nandram noted that at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, CARPHA was the only recognised laboratory conducting COVID-19 testing, but T&T has since made a significant stride in local testing with the opening of UWI’s virology lab. This was a “game changer” as it allowed T&T to set its own testing criteria, expand Community Testing and process a larger number of samples. He said, “This really increased our capacity to respond.”
  • Local testing capacity for COVID-19 will be expanded through the establishment of molecular-based labs at the North Central Regional Health Authority, Medical Research Foundation and the South West Regional Health Authority. Equipment is already on site at these institutions.
  • Major hospitals will soon be able to conduct COVID-19 testing in the next phase of managing the virus. Dr. Nandram said Near Point Of Care machines will be placed at the Scarborough General Hospital, Port of Spain General Hospital, San Fernando General Hospital, Sangre Grande Hospital and Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex. These Near Point Of Care machines have a huge advantage as they have a shorter turnaround time (one hour) for COVID-19 results.
  • Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said next week will be critical for the Ministry of Health as it will mark two weeks since the Phase One Reopening. He said if the hospitals are not overwhelmed with patients with virus symptoms, the next Phases will be advanced.
  • TT students in Grenada and other territories who want to return home can apply to the Minister of National Security for exemptions.

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