Cabinet last week waived duty on all brands of the antigen-detecting rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19, also known as a lateral flow test, that meets Government’s guidelines for importation.
The arrival of lateral flow tests in the Cayman Islands, Deputy Premier and Minister for Finance and Economic Development, Hon. Christopher Saunders explained, means that large numbers of people can self-administer inexpensive tests that will allow the prompt identification of individuals who are positive for COVID-19, and minimise time in quarantine or isolation for those who are negative.
Mr Saunders commented, “There are significant social, economic, and mental health benefits to the capability for rapid testing which outweigh any revenue that Government may have forgone”.
With the Cayman Islands currently experiencing community spread of COVID-19, officials believe there is potentially a need for hundreds of thousands of tests (costing around KYD2.50 each), to allow schools, businesses, sports clubs and similar organisations to remain open.
“We hope the duty waiver will act as an incentive for vendors to import approved tests kits themselves and pass the savings on to the consumer,” concluded the Deputy Premier.
Government has itself already imported some 11,000 tests, working with Crown Agents in the UK.
Shortly after the tests arrived on-Island a pilot rapid testing programme was successfully rolled out on Saturday, 16 October, by Public Health to a large group of families in isolation. There were 220 participants, of whom two tested positive. Households in which all members tested negative were allowed to immediately leave isolation.
Rapid Test Importation Guidelines Now Available
Government published guidelines surrounding the importation of the antigen-detecting rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19, also known as a lateral flow test, in its Legislation Gazette on Friday, 15 October.
The new regulations specify that imported tests must have been recommended or approved for use by a national public health agency in any of the following countries:
• United States of America,
• United Kingdom,
• European Union,
• New Zealand,
• Jamaica, or
The regulations also require that approval of tests must have been preceded by rigorous, documented testing.
In addition, they state that tests must have a sensitivity (ability to identify persons with COVID-19) of at least 80 per cent, and a specificity (ability to identify persons without the disease) of at least 97 per cent.
While the Medical Officer of Health may make exemptions to these requirements, all exemptions must be published in the Cayman Islands Gazette or a similar channel.
The guidelines surrounding the importation of rapid tests are outlined in section 4 of the Control of Covid-19 (Testing) Regulations, 2021, and are available at http://gazettes.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/13114741.PDF.
Sections 1-3 of the same regulations briefly outline requirements for registered and accredited practitioners, healthcare facilities and medical tourism facilities to provide PCR testing for COVID-19 in the Cayman Islands. It also details the requirements for reporting positive test results to the Public Health Department.