PAHO calls for countries to prioritise rapid tests for those with COVID-19 symptoms

January 20, 2022 in International

WASHINGTON (CMC) – The director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dr Carissa Etienne Wednesday called on countries to prioritise rapid antigen tests for those with the coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms and who are most at risk of spreading the disease.

She said it was necessary with COVID-19 surging throughout the Americas and demand for diagnostics higher than ever.

Dr Etienne, told the weekly news conference that with 7.2 million new COVID cases reported in the region over the past week, countries must “expand testing at the community level to relieve pressure on hospitals, which are working overtime”.

Rapid antigen tests, which offer a diagnosis in just minutes, do not require specialised equipment or training so, “can be deployed to primary health centres, where they can reach more people closer to home,” the PAHO director added.

She said given the current shortage of tests, a problem that is expected to continue for some time as Omicron spreads rapidly throughout the region, Dr Etienne also urged countries to advise those without symptoms who have been exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine where possible and follow public health measures.

“Slowing the spread of COVID will require every tool in our arsenal – vaccines, social distancing, mask wearing, avoiding large gatherings, and testing,” Dr Etienne said.

The director highlighted PAHO’s work to improve the region’s laboratory capacity to respond to emerging pathogens, even before the pandemic arrived in the region.