Although the Ministry of Health (MOH) has received 190,000 rapid antigen testing kits for distribution into health care settings, they will not be distributed just yet as validation tests must first be done.

Disclosing this during Saturday’s COVID-19 briefing, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the shipment which consists of two types of test kits–Standard F and Standard Q–arrived in the country as scheduled last Wednesday.

He said the 150,000 Standard F kits would be distributed to all hospitals and some community settings, while 40,000 Standard Q kits would be used for community testing.

Deyalsingh said personnel are being trained and that four sites in Trinidad and one in Tobago have already been chosen. “We are in a position within the next week or two, to actually start the trial run of rapid antigen testing for the first time in Trinidad, using kits that have a very high degree of accuracy.”

Meanwhile, Principal Medical Officer Dr Naresh Nandram said they intend to place the devices in all Accident & Emergency Departments at major hospitals including Tobago.

Nandram said the new rapid antigen testing was not a replacement of the standard PCR testing but has been designed to work in conjunction with it.

He confirmed that training of personnel should be completed within the next few weeks, as validation processes needed to be completed before it was administered to the population.

Looking at the global picture, Deyalsingh said there were now eight countries in the world where the COVID-19 cases had crossed the one-million mark. With global infections increasing by almost 575,000 per day, he predicted the number of countries would soon increase to 11.

Asked if the authorities would consider increasing the opening hours of gyms to 4 am, the minister said it is something that can be considered ahead of next weekend’s conference which Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will chair.

Asked if further consideration had been given to reopening the country’s borders, Deyalsingh, who is part of a three-member committee appointed by the PM last weekend to look at this issue, said they held their first meeting last Tuesday. The committee is chaired by National Security Minister Stuart Young and includes Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.

Deyalsingh said they would have to collectively examine the legislative framework, national security issues and health implications before making a decision.

They willl meeet again this weekend, Deyalsingh said, and Young would present the committee’s findings to Rowley who would make the recommendations.