Tests that can help determine whether the community have antibodies to the coronavirus will soon be available in Palau.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) last week confirmed the arrival of rapid test kits in Palau but while most of the tests will be offered by private clinics, the results will still be validated by health officials.
Former Minister of Health Dr. Victor Yano and owner of Yano’s Belau Medical Clinic said the antibody tests “can help MOH determine if there has been COVID 19 in the community, not when and how.”
Antibody tests or rapid tests are a blood test through finger prick instead of a swab and usually yields faster results than the PCR tests.
Although antibody tests do not detect if the virus is in the body, it can detect whether a person has been exposed to the virus.
As to issues casting doubts on the accuracy of antibody tests, Dr. Yano said,
“antibody testing kits are made by different manufacturers; each has its own validation data. One way is to check test results on two different manufacturers to see if results agree All biological tests cannot achieve 100% including the confirmatory PCR amplification methods,” he said.
His clinic will be working with the MOH on validating the results of the tests.
Yano said that the key to respond to the threats of the pandemic is to “prepare as much as we can, educate communities about the seriousness and its impact on lives.”
Noting the vulnerability of small nations to a pandemic, he said Palau should pay attention to its borders so no single case lands in the nation.
“Even large countries have difficulty with medical supplies, we have some but not enough to contain a few positive cases in the hospital,” he said.
“One confirmed case and the public will be unpredictable, “he added.
He also expressed confidence that with over 500 PCR testing that MOH has conducted that turned out negative, “most likely COVID-19 has not landed on Palau yet.”
“The main contention now is the status of stranded Palauan citizens and residents abroad that will take our attention starting next month.”
He said that it’s important that the response on easing borders to returning citizens and residents “should be guided on the status of COVID19 in Guam, CNMI, and Hawaii.”