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Oct 8, 2021

Rapid Testing: In Belize Since Onset of COVID-19

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health and Wellness announced that it supports the use of SD Biosensor Rapid Test to test for COVID-19 in Belize.  But what prompted the release?  Well, the ministry says misinformation about the test’s accuracy currently being circulated is undermining efforts to fight the virus.  News Five’s Paul Lopez decided to look into the history of the rapid test in Belize and found that at the onset of the pandemic, there were similar questions about the sensitivity of rapid tests.  Those died down as it became an integral part of the nation’s fight against COVID.  With the third wave, however, those issues have re-emerged among certain factions. Here is his report.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

In June of 2020, there were concerns about the sensitivity of rapid tests when we learnt that some persons who tested negative for COVID19 abroad, using a rapid test prior to entering Belize, tested positive for the virus when swabbed at the PGIA with a PCR test.


Marvin Manzanero

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Former Director of Health Services [File: June 15th, 2020]

“Patient number twenty-one and the two other [American] nationals that arrived, we do have rapid tests that they did. It does say on the note that we got from them that those have not been cleared by the FDA, but nonetheless that’s what they are doing in the Houston area. One of those is a false negative; that’s one of three at least.”


The issue of sensitivity and sensibility was a primary concern within the Ministry of Health, at the time. While there was discussion about introducing the rapid test in Belize, validations first had to take place.


Dr. Marvin Manzanero [File: August 18th, 2020]

“Understand that when you have an epidemic, let’s say you go and start rapid testing in San Pedro – the positives that come up that is not a problem but the problem will come up when you get a negative result and then you can have a false-negative. So, the patient may be told that they are negative but in fact they are positive and so that is what you want to safeguard.”


And then in late August, the FDA gave clearance for the Abbott Rapid Test, which is reportedly ninety seven point one percent accurate.


Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow, Former Prime Minister [File: August 28th, 2020]

“Abbott has said that it will be shipping the tests in the tens of millions next month, right here September starting next week.”


The Ministry of Health eventually launched rapid testing in August Pine Ridge, using the SD Biosensor rapid test. The fifteen minutes turnaround time was a game changer.


Maria Monima

Maria Monima, Regional Health Manager, Northern Health Region [File: September 24th, 2020]

“So we identified six persons positive and it was really a great benefit because right away the person was called and we made the validation with the PCR test.”


As the number of COVID cases spiraled out of control in 2020, the Ministry of Health’s demand for rapid testing increased. With the change of Administration came the roll out of rapid testing countrywide.


Michel Chebat

Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness [File: November 26th, 2020]

“The plan moving forward includes the immediate implementation and scale up of the use of rapid tests in all district hospitals with clear testing protocols. All regional and community hospitals are not conduction rapid test. We shall be expanding test sites throughout the country.”


By May of 2021 the number of COVID cases rapidly decreased, in part due the increased availability of testing. Now, in the midst of a third wave of infections, sensitivity concerns have resurfaced. Concerns about false positives promoted this week’s response from the Ministry. The release asserts that the SD Biosensor test returns accurate positives eighty-eight percent of the time.


Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer, Maternal & Child Health Technical Advisor, M.O.H.W.

“There will always be comments about the quality of the different test. But, that is what we have to offer right now to the community. So, that is better than nothing. We must make most of the opportunity. We have been picking up positive cases. I don’t say today, but that is what the Ministry of Health use, and it is helping us to identify the cases.”


Natalia Largaespada Beer

Paul Lopez

“Is it possible that the SD Biosensor Antigen test can pick up false positive test result?”


Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer

“Every test is not one hundred percent. You always have that false positive or false negative, which you call sensitivity and sensibility of the test.”


Alain Gonzalez

Dr. Alain Gonzalez, Public Health Doctor, K.H.M.H.

“Yes, there might be false negative, there might be false positive, but I think the brand that we are using right now, because we use it at the hospital, has proven to be effective. So yes, it is a very good test to be using.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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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