WHO to increase COVID-19 testing from 500 up to 1000 a day in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 July 2020:

The World Health Organization Country Office has secured a grant of €500,000 from the German Technical Cooperation (GIZ) through a strategic partnership to increase COVID-19 testing capacity from 500 up to 1000 tests per day in Sierra Leone.

The support will ensure the procurement of urgently needed equipment for the diagnosis and confirmation of COVID-19 in the country.

WHO will facilitate timely procurement and supply of the consumables and equipment for coronavirus testing, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests which are the gold standard, viral isolation kits, and viral transport media with swabs.

“We realized that limited testing is a constraining factor, with a significantly low lab capacity in the response in Sierra Leone. We are therefore very thankful to the German government through GIZ for the support to rapidly scale up the testing capacity of COVID-19 by procurement of the much need laboratory diagnostic supplies. This support has both short and long term benefits as it will inevitably help to improve the skill sets of laboratory staff and in the long term, the diagnostic sector in general,” says Evans Liyosi, WHO Representative in Sierra Leone.

Since the first COVID-19 case was reported in Sierra Leone on 31st March 2020, more than 1,700 cases have been confirmed, with 1,292 (74%) recoveries and 66 deaths.

“We feel that our surveillance, laboratory and treatment centres have interrelated so well in this response. However, we have been quite selective with regards to testing. We have mainly tested primary contacts because of the limited availability of test kits. But today it is pleasing that what this support could procure would double what exists in country as we move towards community testing and testing in the various hotspots,” says Prof. Alpha Wurie, Minister of Health and Sanitation.

Laboratory testing allows early detection of COVID-19 cases and is critical in effective control of the spread of the disease. Approximately 16,000 tests have been conducted in Sierra Leone since the onset of the pandemic with a positivity rate of 11%.

The PCR test is being done in five molecular laboratories in the country including Jui P3, Connaught National Teaching and Referral Hospital, the Central Public Health Reference Lab, 34 Military labs and Kenema Government Hospital. However, this support aims to expand the capacity of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to upgrade the laboratory infrastructure in Makeni, Bo, and Kambia.

“We are at a critical moment in the COVID-19 response. While the case numbers have drastically reduced in Germany, we can only succeed if we have a global success and that is why we are supporting the international response. On top of the global response, we are happy to collaborate with WHO to support Sierra Leone in the fight against COVID-19. We will get over this together,” says H.E Ambassador Horst Gruner, German Ambassador to Sierra Leone.

WHO is supporting the scale up of laboratory testing through the recruitment and training of 30 laboratory scientists to support COVID-19 testing in multiple laboratories including Makeni and Freetown International Airport (Lungi). WHO will also provide incentives to the recruited lab scientist for a period of 6 months. In addition, the Organization has hired two international consultants to support training and mentorship of laboratory scientists.

This support is in line with the national COVID-19 response strategic plan and seeks to fill existing gaps in availability of kits to expand testing capacity which is one of the five key national strategies to achieve the response objectives.

2 Comments

  1. The WHO need to include confirmation of the primary source of COVID-19 formerly 2019-nCoV virus. I contend that this primary source is Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland, USA from whence 4 batches were taken amongst 365 Americans who had flown into Wuhan in China ostensibly to participate in the October 2019 WUHAN MILITARY ATHLETIC GAMES! 176 actively participated in these Games – USA won 35th place on points out of about 60 countries! What had the 365 minus 176 been up to in Wuhan, China?

    All 365 Americans flew out of Wuhan on 29th October, 2019. These and the rest are now contemporaneous history about which the current Sierra Leone Government has not demonstrated credible interest and concern! Seton During – Investigative Journalist.

  2. While the world health organisation, through German help, have secured this funding to enhance our testing capability for COVID19,it is important to remind the COVID19 strategic national health, and social planners it is going to be a tough sell in towns and villages in the rural areas. We are reopening the country slowly, but we are not out of the woods yet. So we should not be complacent.

    This deadly disease is here with us for some time. Yes minister of health and sanitation Pro. Alpha Wurie has expressed the need to expand the testing capacity. Whilst Sierra Leone and other African countries have managed the pandemic well, compared to our Western partners, it is important to remind health officials not everyone is convinced about the existence of COVID19 pandemic. And unfortunately, this is all due to the level of political polarisation that exists in our country today. And its getting worst rather than better.

    For some it has been reduced to the common denominator of the Sierra leone disease that has been with us long before we heard of COVID19, the APC/SLPP never ending fights and blame games. In order for test and trace to succeed, government need to set up an army of young volunteers that go around the country to educate a sceptical population. So stop killing our young people – we desperately need them. May God bless the republic of Sierra Leone.

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