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CARPHA strengthens its COVID-19 testing capacity with Japan donation

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad–Thanks to a bilateral cooperation programme, the Japan-CARICOM Friendship and Cooperation Fund, the Caribbean Public Health Agency CARPHA Medical Microbiology Laboratory (CMML) received 23 viral RNA test kits valued at US $43,411 which are expected to conduct approximately 5,750 tests. The laboratory supplies will go a long way in supporting CARPHA’s capacity to test for COVID-19.

In addition to the support to CARPHA, the government of Japan also provided the sum of US $267,724 from the Association for Promotion of International Cooperation (APIC) for the purchase of kits to conduct approximately 72,090 tests for Guyana, Jamaica and Suriname.

The donations, made by Tatsuo Hirayama, Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, were received by the CARPHA Executive Management Team at a ceremony which took place at the Agency’s headquarters located in Port of Spain, on Tuesday, October 5.

Dr. Lisa Indar, Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control at CARPHA welcomed the delegation, and expressed thanks to the government of Japan. Following this, Dr. Mark Sami, Director, Corporate Services, provided a brief presentation on the history of the government of Japan’s support to CARPHA, which includes four active projects as well as projects in the pipeline.

CARPHA is leading the regional health response to COVID-19, in keeping with its Intergovernmental Agreement and mandate as a Caribbean Community CARICOM institution and recommendations from the Council for Human and Social Development COHSOD-Health Working Group on Regional Coordination for Response Management.

“CARPHA is pleased to receive these items, which will add to our ability to provide support to the governments and people of the region in their continued fight against COVID-19,” Dr. Joy St. John, CARPHA Executive Director said at the hand-over ceremony. “We would like to express our gratitude for the continued and considerate support to fight this COVID-19 pandemic from the government and people of Japan, through the Japan-CARICOM Friendship and Cooperation Fund. This contribution to enhance the testing capacity of the CARPHA Medical Microbiology Laboratory is the latest in a long history of support provided to the region by the government and people of Japan.

Dr. St. John also expressed her appreciation for the ongoing collaboration between CARPHA and the CARICOM Secretariat and more importantly, for the trust and confidence that Secretary-General of CARICOM, Dr. Carla Barnett – represented by Assistant Secretary-General Dr. Douglas Slater – has placed in CARPHA to execute these important projects, which bring benefits to the people of the Caribbean.

Assistant Secretary-General, Dr. Slater voiced gratitude to the government and people of Japan for their continued support, cooperation and partnership with the region. Dr. Slater, who was speaking on behalf of the CARICOM secretary-general, said, “We are focussing today [Tuesday, October 5 – Ed.], on the handover of the RNA kits to address the challenges we have had with COVID-19. Due to the impact of this disease on all aspects of our lives, we sincerely appreciate how important this is for us to be best prepared through our lead public health institution CARPHA, to help our Member States manage the process going forward.”

Ambassador Hirayama commended CARPHA, stating, “I take this opportunity to pay my respect and tribute to the agency for its essential role in fighting against the pandemic in this region. He added, “Japan and CARICOM have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship based on our shared principles and values that include, among others, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Building on our longstanding cooperative relations, it is my utmost pleasure to witness the procurement of approximately 77,840 [polymerase chain reaction] PCR test kits utilising more than US $300,000. He expressed his hope that the test kits would assist CARICOM member countries in conducting necessary tests expeditiously, thus contributing to detecting infections early.

Aneesa Doodnath-Siboo, Principal Pharmacist, Ministry of Health, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, delivered remarks on behalf of Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh. Doodnath-Siboo highlighted the close and beneficial relationship with CARPHA, stating, “The value of this affiliation has definitely been made evident by the collaborative approach to the fight against COVID-19.” In closing, she said, “RNA extraction is the first step of the PCR testing process. Thus, I cannot stress enough the importance of these contributions towards the COVID-19 management programme for the Caribbean community. This significant donation will ensure the receipt of quality and equitable test results from COVID-19 testing facilities and utilise the latest technology for COVID-19 diagnosis.”

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