Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Dr. Carissa F. Etienne has urged countries to prioritise rapid antigen tests for people with COVID-19, whom she says are most at risk of spreading the disease.
Etienne spoke on Wednesday at a news briefing amid a massive surge in COVID-19 cases in the Americas, resulting in an unprecedented demand for diagnostics.
According to PAHO, the region reported 7.2 million new cases over the past week.
And the PAHO Director explained that countries must expand testing at the community level to relieve pressure on hospitals working overtime.
According to Etienne, rapid antigen tests offering a diagnosis in just minutes and do not require special equipment or training.
As a result, she noted that the authorities could deploy them to primary health centers to reach more people closer to home.
Given the current shortage of tests – a problem that officials expect to continue for some time as Omicron spreads rapidly throughout the region – Etienne also urged countries to advise those without symptoms who have been exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine where possible and follow public health measures.
“Slowing the spread of COVID will require every tool in our arsenal – vaccines, social distancing, mask wearing, avoiding large gatherings, and testing,” Etienne explained.