The government will be acquiring a genome sequencer that will be used to test samples to determine variants of viruses in Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said Thursday.
He said the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund will finance the acquisition of the equipment, with the requisite accessories and reagents.
Speaking during his 2021/22 Budget Debate presentation in the House of Representatives, Holness said the equipment is being acquired, in light of the extended time taken for Jamaica to receive the results of tests on samples sent to a regional facility earlier this year, to determine whether the UK variant of the COVID-19 was present in the island.
He noted that viruses are constantly changing, leading to the emergence of new variants that may have different characteristics.
The Prime Minister indicated that since late 2020, multiple variants of SARS-Cov-2 have been detected, adding that “some may be easier to transmit and cause more severe diseases”.
Consequently, he said, “Jamaica must have the instant capability to determine the variants of viruses present in our population as part of our routine public health surveillance”.
Last year, the CHASE Fund financed the acquisition of high-capacity testing equipment and supplies for the National Influenza Centre.
Prime Minister Holness said that equipment significantly enhanced the country’s capacity to test COVID-19 and other viral samples more quickly and accurately.