Equipment coming to test for variants of COVID-19 virus
A health worker collects a swab sample from the Bahrain's Everest expedition team member to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus before the teams departure to climb Mount Everest, in Kathmandu on March 19, 2021. (PHOTO: AFP)

THE Government will be acquiring a genome sequencer that will be used to test samples to determine variants of viruses in Jamaica.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund will finance acquisition of the equipment, with the requisite accessories and reagents.

He made the announcement during his 2021/22 budget debate presentation in the House of Representatives on Thursday, under the theme 'Recovery: Faster, Stronger, Better'.

Holness said the equipment is being acquired in light of the extended time taken for Jamaica to receive the results of tests on samples sent to a regional facility earlier this year to determine whether the UK variant of the coronavirus was present in the island.

He noted that virus is constantly changing, leading to the emergence of new variants that may have different characteristics.

Holness indicated that since late 2020, multiple variants of SARS-Cov-2 have been detected, adding that “some may be easier to transmit and cause more severe diseases”.

Consequently, he emphasised that “Jamaica must have the instant capability to determine the variants of viruses present in our population as part of our routine public health surveillance”.

The prime minister said that last year the CHASE Fund financed acquisition of high-capacity testing equipment and supplies for the National Influenza Centre.

“This equipment significantly enhanced the country's capacity to test COVID-19 [and other viral] samples more quickly and accurately,” Holness pointed out.

– JIS

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