With 34 Confirmed Cases of COVID-19, Jamaica Is Now Increasing Testing Capacity

As I noted in a previous post, there has been much discussion about whether Jamaica should be testing more for COVID-19. Globally, there is much debate about how and when testing should be (or should have been) ramped up, what tests are available, etc. The New York Times reports today that the U.S. “lost” a whole month as it failed to prioritize testing. Now the Ministry of Health and Wellness reports that measures are being taken to increase the island’s capacity to test. Here is the Ministry’s latest report.


KINGSTON, Jamaica. Sunday, 29 March 2020. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Jamaica now stands at 34. The increase comes as the National Influenza Centre has reported two positive results from 5 tests that were pending.

 The two new cases are:

  • a 34 year-old female from St. James with a travel history from New York and
  • a 74-year-old female from St. Catherine with a travel history from the New York.

The classification of cases shows that twenty-three (23) are imported cases, ten (10) are import-related and one (1) is under investigation. The 60 year old female from Portland has now been classified as an import-related case.

The island has so far tested 292 samples, including tests for Severe Acute Respiratory Infections. Thirty-four (34) of the 292 tested positive and 253 tested negative. This represents a positivity yield of 11.6 percent. Five (5) results are pending and the results will be made available.

Testing Capacity

In the meantime, the Ministry is making headway with increasing its capacity to test for COVID-19.  The extraction process of testing at the National Influenza Centre is being automated for greater efficiency and this will increase the capacity of the number of samples tested to more than 100 daily.

At the National Public Health Laboratory, a COBAS 6800 machine is being installed. In the next three weeks, equipment installation and training of staff will be completed and the facility will be able to complement the work done at the National Influenza Centre with the capacity to test approximately 380 samples per eight hour day.

The Ministry is also to receive additional PCR testing machines from the International Atomic Energy Agency that will further increase the island’s testing capacity.

Medical staff at Kingston Public Hospital’s A&E Department. (Photo: South East Regional Health Authority/Twitter)

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