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Feb 21, 2020

Belize Capable of Detecting COVID-19

The number of deaths due to the coronavirus continues to climb and it is reported that at least one thousand one hundred persons have died, while far more, about forty-five thousand five hundred persons, have been sickened by the virus.  The Ministry of Health here is working on overdrive to put in place systems should the virus find its way into Belize. Here is News Five’s Hipolito Novelo with a report.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

Two health professionals, Quality Assurance Coordinator Celso Carrera and Medical Laboratory Technologist Ruby Aguillon journeyed to Mexico City to receive a two-day practical training on the diagnosis of the Covid-19 virus that has health officials in Belize on high alert.


Celso Carrera

Celso Carrera, Quality Assurance Coordinator, Central Medical Laboratory

“We have algorithms of how we will treat each patient because we will not be testing everybody at the moment. We brought back reagents, primers and probes for the testing so basically this week we set up the test and we had a trial run and well that is where we are right now. We are up and ready to start screening for the new coronavirus.”


As the new corona virus makes its way across borders, at the Central Medical Laboratory in Belize City Carrera, Aguillon and other health professionals have acquired the knowledge and equipment to quickly detect the new disease. Samples are received by the Molecular Biology Unit and with primers and probes, tests are carried out to do initial screening for COVID-19.

Ruby Aguillon

Ruby Aguillon, Medical Laboratory Technologist, Molecular Biology Unit

“The first thing we need to do is to screen the documentation that comes along with the sample. After screening the documentation the first procedures is to test for influenza B, A, and other respiratory viruses which includes the common corona virus that is circulating here. After doing that through PCR then we interpret the results and after interpreting the results then we would determine we need to do the screening for the new corona virus strain. If we do not need to do the screening then we release the results to the different institutions with the findings that we obtain and the reason why we are not testing for the new strain of coronavirus.”


And that reason is that the possibility of co-infection is extremely low. If the virus is detected, Aguillon says that further testing in conducted. Reagents are utilized on suspected cases.


Ruby Aguillon

“And then we proceed to the second room which is the master mix room. That is a sterile or clean room where we prepare our reagents that we are going to use to analyze our specimens. Those reagents include primers and probes.  No sample is allowed to enter there in order for us to keep the room clean and free of contamination. We have a third room which is the application room, in that room we already combined the reagent or the sample and then we have machines which are used to analyze the sample and determine if the target we are looking for is present in that specific sample.”


If a sample is tested positive for COVID-19, a protocol is followed and key persons in the Ministry of Health and government are informed which leads to a emergency plan being activated to prevent the spread of the virus.


Celso Carrera

“Professionally wise this is a plus for the country and not only the country if we look at the region because the virus can come through Guatemala, it can come through the Mexico so we have this regional approach whereby if the whole region is in unit and everybody is screening so when the virus does reach let’s say Mexico the alarm will be triggered. So now here in Belize are already prepared to respond to his.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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