NIA To Acquire A Second PCR Machine; COVID-19 Testing To Come On Stream Within Weeks

NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (October 06, 2021)- – The Nevis Island Administration (NIA) is in the process of acquiring a second polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine and is mobilizing to begin testing for COVID-19 on the island in the coming weeks.

Hon. Premier Mark Brantley, Senior Minister of Health in the NIA, gave an update on the government’s position with respect to bringing on-island testing on stream. He was at the time speaking at his monthly press conference on October 06, 2021.

“We had received a QuantStudio 5 PCR Machine. It is now here at our lab at the GMBC Building. Some reagents have been received and more are expected shortly…We have also now been granted approval to withdraw funds to make payment for a second machine, a GeneXpert PCR machine, that we got through diplomatic efforts with the Japanese government and we are to wire funds this week, so Nevis will have access to two machines.

“For us, this is a huge step forward. Nevis now will have the ability to test here on the island, so once a swab is taken it goes to our lab and the test results are returned,” he said. 

A technician is expected to travel to Nevis from Trinidad next week to install the biosafety hood that is required to create a sterile environment for testing. The NIA has also sent a request to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for a virologist to travel to Nevis to train laboratory staff in the PCR testing process.

Mr. Brantley says having two machines available for COVID-19 testing ensures that if one machine is in use and goes offline, the second can be utilized, or both machines can be in operation simultaneously when demand for testing is highest to prevent backlog in providing test results.

He explained that establishing testing capabilities is a process that takes time as the lab must be certified for COVID-19 PCR testing so that results will be accepted by entities and countries that require proof of coronavirus status.

The Health Minister pointed out that being able to test on-island at a government facility would substantially reduce the cost involved. Presently the cost of testing for contact tracing is borne by the government and swabs have to be sent to St. Kitts for analysis.

He said private testing, for instance, those persons needing proof of their COVID-19 status for travel, will incur a cost however the fee will be determined following appropriate cost analysis.

 The first PCR machine arrived on Nevis in August 2021 through the generous donation of the Drahi Foundation, based in Switzerland. The second is being purchased with funds donated by the Government of Japan’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP).

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