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Noguchi to ramp up COVID-19 testing …as more test kits, lab equipment, supplies arrive to address testing hiccups

Government has started taking delivery of laboratory equipment and supplies that are expected to increase the country’s COVID-19 testing capacity and address current hiccups in testing that has resulted in a backlog.

The supplies include150,000 swabs, 100,000 KN95 masks, 700,000 examination gloves, 270,000 autoclave bags,Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test kits to do 500,000 tests, tubes and PCR machines.

The Head of the Virology Department of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Research (NMIR), Professor William Ampofo,who disclosed this yesterday said  majority were received on Saturday while the rest were expected yesterday and today.

At the COVID-19 briefing in Accra, he said when all the supplies arrive, various testing centres would be capable of conducting between 10,000 to 15,000 tests per week and reduce the turnaround time for testing to 48 hours and in some cases 24 hours.

“We receive about 20,000 to 21,000 samples across the country. The target is to reduce the time,” he said, adding with about 320,000 test done so far improving testing would aid decision making in the fight against the virus.

According to Prof Ampofo, to beef up testing, gene expert platforms belonging to the national tuberculosis programme which were capable of testing COVID-19 would be deployed at 120 sites across the country.

In addition, he announced plans to conduct mobile testing in collaboration with the Ghana Revenue Authority while the University of Ghana Medical Centre and the new medical centre at Ga East would be equipped to test.

All these, he said were part of a larger strategy  being implemented in phases , including capacity building of laboratory staff to prevent the backlog that had increased the countries daily cases to close to 1,000  in the last few weeks.

On the use of Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTS), Prof Ampofo said, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) had not licensed any of them for COVID-19 test yet and discouraged the public from using them.

He said the new evidence that the virus was airborne should be a wakeup call for the public to uphold all the safety protocols and prevent further spread of the virus in the country.

BY JONATHAN DONKOR

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