Caribbean News

Jamaica first in Caribbean for COVID-19 testing

Principal Medical Officer and National Epidemiologist, Dr. Karen Webster Kerr, responds to questions from journalists, during a digital press conference from the Ministry of Health and Wellness​' New Kingston offices on Wednesday (May 6).

Kingston, Jamaica – May 11, 2020 – Jamaica is ranked first out of 14 Caribbean countries in terms of the overall number of tests administered for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

This was disclosed by Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, who commended healthcare professionals for the critical role they play in facilitating the country’s increased testing capacity.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton (left),  addresses a digital press conference from the Ministry’s New Kingston offices on Wednesday (May 6).

He was speaking at a digital press conference on Wednesday (May 6) from the Ministry’s New Kingston offices.

Providing further details, Principal Medical Officer and National Epidemiologist, Dr. Karen Webster Kerr, noted that the figures used for the ranking were as at May 5, when 5,993 tests were recorded. The latest update on May 7 brings the number of tests done locally to 6,417.

Jamaica is followed by the Cayman Islands, which has undertaken 3,050 tests, then Barbados with 2,629. Trinidad and Tobago and The Bahamas round out the top-five countries, recording 2,121 and 1,485 tests, respectively.

Dr. Webster Kerr noted, however, that the Cayman Islands surpassed Jamaica to take the top spot in terms of the number of tests per population, at 46,000 per million. With 2,024 per million, Jamaica is ranked ninth. Jamaica has a population of 2.9 million, while the Cayman Islands has a population of 65,604.

The other countries involved in the evaluation are Belize, Haiti, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Turks and Caicos.

Jamaica’s capacity to conduct tests for COVID-19 was recently boosted with the commissioning of a COBAS machine, located at the National Public Health Laboratory in Kingston, which has capacity for a maximum 1,140 tests per day.

This is in addition to the donation of two diagnostic machines and 7,500 testing kits by major shareholder in the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), the South Korea-based East West Power Korea (EWP), to the National Influenza Centre at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI). This has improved the testing capacity of the Centre from 200 to 986 per day.

In total, Jamaica now has the capacity to conduct approximately 2,126 COVID-19 tests per day.

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