The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is actively searching for suppliers of a key ingredient to the COVID-19 testing process amidst a global shortage but says its has cover for at least the next three weeks.
The reagent chemical is crucial to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing process but increased demand for the chemical, as countries around the world ramp up testing to battle COVID-19, has led to its shortage, CARPHA deputy director and infectious disease specialist Dr Lisa Indar said yesterday.
“The CMML (CARPHA’s Medical Microbiology Laboratory) has been impacted by global shortages of reagents. However, our current reagent capacity is we have enough media to take us through the next three weeks,” Indar said during the organisation’s virtual press conference yesterday.
Indar noted that CARPHA had placed pre-orders for the agents in January before there were any cases of the virus in the Caribbean. However, the delivery of the reagent was now being delayed due to the shortage.
“It’s just the time it’s taking to get to us because of the shortage,” Indar said.
Meanwhile, Caribbean Public Health Agency executive director Dr Joy St John says it would not be wise for countries to reopen borders to travellers from other countries where there are outbreaks of the virus at this stage, since this could lead to a second wave of the virus in those countries.
She said epidemiological data on COVID-19 cases is currently being compiled which shows the analysis of the distribution, patterns and determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations. This data, she said, is already showing they must be very careful on how they approach treatment and management of the spread of the virus. She noted that a risk profile is also being done on patients, incorporating data on their ages and health history to help in the battle to eradicate the virus.
“We don’t have the full picture. PAHO (Pan American Health Organisation) may have it. We do not just do a demographic profile but also an epidemiological profile because we are aware that there will be second and third waves of the disease,” St John said.
“People with diseases, lung conditions, those older with underlying conditions, there are some people who will not be exposed but if we open our borders and increase traffic from countries with transmission (then we could have a second or third wave).”
Asked whether the Caribbean was already seeing a second wave, St John said, “We are about to get into the sloping of the curve and we are on the flat part, please don’t put a second wave on top of that.”
Asked whether other countries outside the Caribbean were experiencing a second wave, she said, “A second wave on top of the first wave is not the experience globally. There is an epidemic curve, a peaking, waning and then cessation. Usually, if there are no deaths in 14 days you are out of the first wave. Having a second wave means the measures that we put to curtail the disease in the first wave have been lifted.”
However, she said most countries are increasing their measures and have expanded the range of businesses that cannot open and are implementing certain suppression measures.
“We’re not in the second wave yet,” she added.