Health Minister, Terrence Deyalsingh, left, chats with Dr Naresh Nandram during a new conference in July 2017.

The machines being provided by Government to do COVID-19 testing at hospitals can provide results in an hour, and the first machine which has arrived in this country is now in Tobago.

This was announced yesterday by Dr Naresh Nandram, Principal Medical Officer (Epidemiology) at the Ministry of Health at the daily COVID- 19 update.

It was announced recently that such machines would be instituted for point-of-care COVID testing at hospitals.

Yesterday Nandram said having such testing at major hospitals will be a “game-changer” since it can give a result from COVID testing in an hour. Hospitals labs will be able to deal with the sample and give results in that time, he assured.

Hospitals scheduled to get the machines included Port-of-Spain, San Fernando, Mt Hope Medical Sciences Complex, Sangre Grande and Tobago.

Nandram said orders were placed for machines and one was obtained already, “It’s in Tobago at the moment, we expect that it’ll be running in the near future,”

He didn’t say when the other machines will arrive and which hospitals will get them. Regional health authorities will have to get cartridges for the machine.

Nandram said the machines will bolster local testing for other infections —tuberculosis, HIV, oncology issues—apart from COVID-19.

Nandram said the top categories for priority testing are ill patients in hospitals with respiratory problems and people coming to Accident and Emergency units with COVID symptoms.

Next are health workers with symptoms. Community testing is also a priority. So far 821 community tests done were all negative.

Also a priority are people in senior citizens’ homes with whom authorities are keeping in touch. Those who are immuno-compromised and people with travel history or those returning from overseas are also a priority for testing.

On the debate about the use of masks for exercising outside, Nandram said the recommended mask for public use is a cloth mask.

But he said exercise involves increased oxygen demand. If people exercising with masks outside feel lightheaded, Nandram advised they should halt and exercise indoors minus masks. He said all people aren’t the same and exercising with a mask may change how they respond.

Nandram also supported Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh’s point that the longer people are in contact with each other closely, the more likely they can become COVID-infected. He said at this stage it would be easy to fall back into the initial position regarding virus infections if the entire economy reopened.