Jersey's government will source its own covid-19 testing equipment to override the ‘cap’ on samples sent to the UK for analysis, the medical lead on Jersey’s response to outbreak has confirmed.
It’s hoped that Jersey will be able to test potential virus patient samples locally by the end of the month.
The commitment came during a press conference with the Deputy Medical Officer Dr Ivan Muscat focusing on the statistical modelling that Jersey is basing its response on.
At the moment, Jersey is sending all of its potential corona virus samples to be tested in the UK and must wait for those labs to send back the results – a process which can take up to 72 hours.
The official number of people diagnosed with corona virus in the island stands at six, but there may be more, as Dr Muscat explained that not everyone is being tested.
Video: Express was live at the press conference with Dr Muscat yesterday.
During the conference, Dr Muscat explained that currently “there is a ceiling on the amount of testing that we can undertake, determined both by capacity in the UK and our capacity locally,” and therefore health workers are having to prioritise more ‘at risk’ individuals for testing.
He continued: “We are therefore testing those people who are more likely to have covid than others. So the testing is primarily for those who have risk factors for covid rather than those who don’t have any risk factors for covid. That is the basic criteria that we are using to determine who is tested and who isn’t.”
Given these added pressures, Dr Muscat commented: “I don’t think we’re in a position to undertake surveillance for covid, so we are currently in a position where we have to focus our testing on those who have an epidemiological link to covid.”
It was said that the government is “actively pursuing” ways to set up a testing facility in the island.
During his presentation, Dr Muscat said: “Currently, because of the novelty of the virus, we can only test in the UK using research-type equipment. We want to be able to do this on-island and we are actively pursuing this and we hope to introduce this by the end of March. That is the promise we’ve been given, we are dependent on commercial companies to deliver that.”
The senior health official explained that whilst Jersey is limiting tests to prioritise more at risk individuals, “there is limitation in the UK much more than here”.
He continued: “In the UK they are only testing people being admitted into hospital, they are not testing people in the community. We are and we want to continue to do that for as long as possible, but we are for the moment dependent on testing undertaken in the UK which is one of the reasons… we are actively seeking to bring testing on-island.”
Earlier this week, World Health Organisation (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for there to be more testing.
Dr Muscat admitted that: “If we could do more testing, we would, but we are limited in what we can send to the UK."
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