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Nakuru County embraces COVID-19 rapid antigen testing – KBC | Kenya’s Watching

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Nakuru County government has rolled out Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) for Covid-19 as part of its effort to increase testing capacity and better manage the pandemic.

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County Executive Committee Member for Health Dr Zachary Gichuki Kariuki said Rapid Antigen Tests were more affordable, easier to use, and provide results within 15 minutes at the point-of-care.

The initiative that is a joint venture between the devolved unit and a global health organization- the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc (CHAI) will initially provide the first 2000 rapid antigen testing kits to kick start the process, while 60 Medical Lab Technologists will be trained on the COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Testing.

While speaking when he inaugurated a week long training for the first batch of 30 Medical Laboratory Technologists drawn from the Level 4 and 5 public health facilities at the Nakuru Level 5 Teaching and Referral Hospital, Dr Kariuki observed that the speed of testing and reporting of results to individuals and public health authorities for isolation and contact tracing was essential in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

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We have made significant progress in Kenya in terms of testing, but we must acknowledge that we are not there yet. The rapid antigen test is a game changer that we are adapting to boost our capacity to rapidly scale-up and increase testing with quicker turnaround time for obtaining test results,” said Kariuki.

We have been primarily conducting Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests, the gold standard, which require laboratories, reagents and experts, limiting COVID-19 testing mostly to large cities and where results turnaround time may range from 48 hours to more than ten days as they are sent for laboratory verification,” said Kariuki.

Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc.  Country Director Mr Gerald Macharia indicated that there was need for counties to recognize rapid testing as an immediate solution to aid the reopening of economies and support uninterrupted services for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases. 

Even with vaccine availability, testing remains the backbone of the COVID-19 response, providing essential data for decision-making by governments and policymakers. Rapid antigen tests will allow a significant scale-up of testing capacity,” stated Mr Macharia.

Chief Officer for Public Health, Mr Samuel King’ori said COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Testing would be targeted at individuals with symptoms, high-risk populations, healthcare workers and other frontline workers in settings where PCR is not available or where turnaround time for results is prolonged.

Mostly we are focused on testing travelers, patients or contacts, and it is possible that a significant number of cases are still missed. With Rapid Antigen Testing, Kenya can stay a step ahead of COVID-19 by scaling up active case finding in challenging environments, such as crowded urban neighbourhoods and communities in the hinterlands,” said King’ori.

The Chief Officer affirmed that RAT was a supplement to PCR tests and not a replacement, adding that the former test had proved to be more reliable in patients who are symptomatic, with a high viral load, or a lot of virus in their upper respiratory tract.

King’ori said testing was a key first line of defense against COVID-19 that enables early identification and isolation of cases to slow transmission and enhances provision of targeted care to those infected while continuing with other vital healthcare services. 

Within the larger Rift Valley Region, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, which serves 22 counties, is the only centre activated to test for COVID-19. Other testing centres are National Influenza Laboratory in Nairobi, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI-Nairobi), Wellcome Trust Kilifi County, Kemri CDC Kisumu County and the Kenyatta National Hospital.

Nakuru County has been sending medical samples of suspected COVID-19 cases to Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) laboratories in Kisumu for analysis. 

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