COVID-19 World: Peru’s Dependence On China’s Cheap Antibody Test Backfires With Exponential Spread Of the COVID-19 Disease
: Peru made the worse decision when it decided it decided to purchase 1.6 million antibody tests from China to help rein in the COVID-19 growing threat in March.
Its President, Martin Vizcarra made a huge press event of the decision then as when Peru’s health officials saw that despite PCR molecular tests for COVID-19 being the best option, they did not have the labs, the supplies, or the technicians to make them work and these antibody tests were easier and cheaper to use.
These tests were being heavily promoted by Chinese companies and authorities and were being sold at a fraction of the market price and could deliver a positive or negative result within minutes with just a drop of blood.
Unknown to them, most of these test kits were of substandard quality and were faulty but were still being promoted by the Chinese.
Current interviews with experts, review of public purchase orders and import records, government resolutions, patients, and COVID-19 health reports show that the country’s bet on rapid antibody tests went dangerously off course.
Peru wrong move on relying heavily on rapid antibody blood tests to diagnose active cases-a purpose for which they are not designed terribly backfired.
These tests cannot detect early COVID-19 infections, making it hard to quickly identify and isolate the sick.
Local health officials and epidemiologists said their misuse was producing a sizable number of false positives and negatives, helping fuel one of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks.
Even shocking was that it was discovered that a number of the antibody tests purchased for use in Peru have since been rejected by the United States after independent analysis found they did not meet standards for accurately detecting COVID-19.
The South American nation has the highest per capita COVID-19 mortality rate of any country across the globe, according to John Hopkins University and doctors there believe the country’s faulty testing approach is one reason why.
Official figures show that Peru now has 832,929 COVID-19 infections and 32,916 COVID-19 deaths out of a population of 33 million people. Local healthcare officials say that the realistic figure for both infections and deaths could as high as twelve fold!
Dr Víctor Zamora, Peru’s former minister of health told media, “This was a multi-systemic failure. We should have stopped the rapid tests by now.”
In the early stages of the pandemic as COVID-19 cases was spreading across the globe, low- and middle-income nations found themselves in a compromising situation.
The WHO or World Health Organization was calling on health authorities to ramp up testing to prevent the virus from spreading out of control. One particular test, the PCR or a polymerase chain reaction exam was deemed the best option.
Utilizing a specimen collected from deep in the nose, the test is developed on specialized machines that can detect the genetic material of the virus within days of infection.
Once COVID-19 cases are detected early, the sick can be isolated, their conta
cts traced, and the chain of contagion severed.
Genome sequences for the virus were made available within weeks of the initial outbreak in Chine and specialists in Asia and Europe got to work creating their own tests.
However in parts of the world like Africa and Latin America, there was no such option. They would have to wait for the tests to become available and when they did, the incredible demand meant most weren’t able to secure the number they required.
Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC, wrote in Nature magazine in April as the hunt was underway, “The collapse of global cooperation and a failure of international solidarity have shoved Africa out of the diagnostics market. Nations that got an early jump start in preparing or had a relatively robust health care system already in place fared best. Two weeks after Colombia identified its first case, the country had 22 private and public laboratories signed up to do PCR testing. Peru, by contrast, relied on just one laboratory capable of 200 tests a day.
Peru for years had invested a smaller part of its GDP on public health than others in the region. As COVID-19 approached, glaring deficiencies in Peru became evident.
There were only 100 ICU beds available for COVID-19 patients, said Dr Víctor Zamora, who was appointed to lead Peru’s Ministry of Health in March.
Numerous corruption scandals had left numerous hospital construction projects on pause. Peru also faced a significant shortage of doctors, forcing the state to embark on a massive hiring campaign.
To date even now, Peru’s health and medical needs are vastly under met. To date, the country has less than 1,500 ICU beds, compared to over 6,000 in the state of Florida, which has 10 million fewer inhabitants, according to official data.
Coupled with high levels of poverty and people who depend on daily wages from informal work, these complicated the government’s efforts to impose a strict quarantine, further challenging Peru’s ability to respond effectively to the virus.
In March, the government in Peru had already decided molecular tests weren’t a viable option. The nation didn’t have the infrastructure needed to run the tests but it also acted too slowly in trying to obtain what little was available on the market.
Using antibody tests which detect proteins created by the immune system in response to a virus had numerous drawbacks.
These had not been widely tested and their accuracy was in question. If taken too early, most people with the virus test negative. That could lead those infected to think they do not have COVID-19. False positives can be equally perilous, leading people to incorrectly believe they are immune.
Peru is currently in a state of major crisis and there seems to be no solutions out of the current nightmare. With almost 35 per cent of its population thought to be infected and with healthcare already collapsed with lack of hospitals, doctors and drugs, the government can only expect to wait and ride of the pandemic while the daily deaths and infections mount. The WHO and UN needs to urgently intervene.
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