Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh is urging members of the public to not pay for COVID-19 tests in the private health sector.
Speaking at a post Cabinet media briefing Monday, Deyalsingh said he is aware that there are labs in East, South and Central Trinidad who are offering COVID-19 “rapid testing” to the public. He said the only machine that can offer a true result on a COVID-19 test is a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine.
“There are some private labs that are doing what are called rapid tests, these are not PCR machines, these are rapid tests which are not accurate,” Deyalsingh said. “I urge the public not to send your samples to these labs to be tested, the only agency that will give you a true positive or a true negative, are those labs with a PCR machine and the only lab so far, is CARPHA, we will have Eric Williams up and running soon.”
Deyalsingh said starting from as early as Friday, a PCR machine at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex will be validated by CARPHA, so this country’s testing capabilities will be ramped up.
He said another PCR machine ordered some time ago for the Public Health Lab will be set up within the next two to three weeks.
To accomplish this, Deyalsingh said a technician will be flown in on a private jet sponsored by corporate T&T to set up the machine.
A fourth machine is also on the way, he said.
“In planning for the future, we have a fourth machine coming in from the International Atomic Energy Agency, we are a member of the IAEA, within four to six weeks a fourth machine will be up and running in T&T, we are going to be well served by PCR machines,” Deyalsingh said.
Guardian Media reached out to one supplier of the “rapid-test” kit in Central Trinidad for comment on the minister’s statement.
The company, has been selling “Biomedomic COVID-19 Rapid-Test” kits.
Guardian Media understands the kits were priced between $6000 and $7000 for one box of 20 tests.
The tests, one of the world’s first rapid-test kits developed, tests for antibodies of the coronavirus to detect the virus in a patient’s blood.
The proteins in the antibodies are supposed to indicate that a person’s immune system has responded to infection with the COVID-19 virus.
A representative of the local company, who identified herself only as “Laura” said the company no longer has the test in stock and are awaiting another shipment of rapid-tests but from a different manufacturer.
She said the company was not willing to release any other information on the test-kits as they had received legal advice and wanted to ensure they were properly “organised” before going forward.
Reporter: Sharlene Rampersad