Number of tests carried out to detect covid-19 is decreasing, before omicron, do we have to increase testing?

The tests to detect positive cases of covid-19 in Guatemala began to be carried out in February 2020, according to the Covid-19 Situation board. Just two months after the first person was swabbed for two months, the population’s access to tests remains limited and the 6,000 daily tests have not been passed.

The country has faced three waves of coronavirus. The first rebound in cases occurred in May 2020, the month in which 18 thousand tests were carried out, and by July the figure reached 92 thousand 806. From there the detection of positive people began to decrease, as did the number of swabs until October, which increased testing and 99,232 were made. It was when the second escalation of infections was established.

December 2020 was when more tests were carried out on the population, they exceeded 100,000, in the midst of a rebound in cases that reached its peak in January 2021 and reached 151,000 screenings, and then decreased.

The data from the board reflects that 204 thousand tests were carried out last April, and this coincides with the beginning of the third wave of covid-19 in the country, with an average of 1,300 infected per day. There was a slight decrease in screenings and positive cases to later increase in September and reach 360 thousand tests carried out, which detected 87 thousand infected. However, 142,000 fewer were made in November.

With the threat that the omicron variant will be found in the country, the number of tests carried out in December, until the 20th, barely exceeds 100,000.

In the opinion of Óscar Chávez, from the Data Laboratory, after two years of pandemic, the Ministry of Health has not had the capacity to carry out enough tests to detect positive cases, and taking as a reference which countries in Europe and which in the United States The testing has increased against the new variant, Guatemala should do the same, because omicron will not take long to appear.

“More evidence is needed. It is a fact that omicron will enter the country and that it is going to raise a new wave and the Ministry has made little effort to prepare for these epidemic waves. Every time there is a new wave it takes them by surprise, as if it were something new when we have already been warned, ”Chávez said.

Do not forget to read: Is the decrease in covid-19 cases in Guatemala the end of the third wave?

He mentioned that it is “normal” that fewer tests are carried out at a certain time, since they are carried out in part according to the demand and behavior of the virus, but “it does not mean that there is no need to prepare or that an upturn in cases will not come.”

Until now, the largest number of tests that are carried out are for antigen, the capacity of the Ministry of Health to carry out PCR tests has remained stagnant, added the Data Laboratory expert.

A low level of testing does not allow us to see the scope of the pandemic, epidemiologists have pointed out that reducing the number of screenings stops detecting positive cases. The tests have also been centralized in the capital, which leaves aside the identification of infected in the departments and in the rural population. The Human Rights Ombudsman has indicated that more than 60 percent of swabs are made in the department of Guatemala.

The Minister of Health, Francisco Coma, pointed out this week at a press conference that the public health services have more than 1,200,000 tests available, and urged the population to approach the centers and mobile units to take the test before any symptoms of coronavirus.

In the capital, the places that they will be attending are the 24-hour health centers in Amparo zone 7 and Paraíso zone 18. And during special hours also the mobile units in the El Guarda, Parque Central and Colonia Atlántida markets, according to the Communication Department of the portfolio.

The EFE Coma news agency announced that in the coming days an “aggressive” test plan will be registered at the national level on the coronavirus and that Guatemalans who are suspected of having the virus will be “searched.”

They do not send samples

César Conde, head of the National Laboratory, points out that they have currently had difficulties in collecting the positive samples of covid-19 that they send to foreign laboratories to sequence them and establish which variants are those that circulate in the country.

Both public hospitals, those of the Guatemalan Social Security Institute, and private laboratories have stopped sending them positive test samples, which did not happen when they detected the delta variant in the country.

“It seems that everyone takes it for granted that delta entered and we stayed there and no, we have to continue with this search, sometimes looking for a variant is like looking for a needle in a haystack, if we do not collaborate we will not find it,” he said.

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