Lebanon + 2 more

Experience of field testing in Lebanon during the COVID-19 pandemic, January to August 2021

  1. http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1961-2600Zeina Farah 1,

  2. http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3549-703XNada Ghosn 1,

  3. Tatiana Tohme 1,

  4. Hala Abou Naja 1,

  5. Reem Abdel Malak 1,

  6. Hawraa Sweidan 1,

  7. Hamad Hassan 2

  8. Correspondence to Mrs Zeina Farah; zfarah.esu@gmail.com

Abstract

Soon after detection of the first COVID-19 case in Lebanon, a testing strategy was developed aiming to early detect new cases and identify close contacts in order to implement isolation and quarantine measures, thus limiting disease transmission. Field-testing activities were initiated in March 2020, focusing on suspected cases and close contacts. The objective of this paper is to present data collected between the 1st and the 35th week of 2021 and discuss challenges and lessons learned. During the study period, testing activities were conducted in field sites covering all Lebanese districts and following a fixed schedule. Testing was provided free of charge for suspected/probable patients with COVID-19 and close contacts of positive cases. Nasopharyngeal specimens were collected and sent to designated laboratories for reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction testing. Results were received on a timely manner, within 48 hours. From the 1st to the 35th week of 2021, 1244 field-testing activities were conducted with an average of 37 testing activities per week. During this period, 71 542 samples were collected with an average of 2104 specimens per week. On average, activities covered 78% of the Lebanese districts. The average positivity rate for this period was 24% (15%–33%) in line with the virus circulation levels in the country. Timely development and implementation of a testing strategy is crucial during epidemics. The success of Lebanon’s field-testing experience was mainly due to the timely adapted approach that covered all national territories, targeting all residents as well as high-risk groups in suburbs and remote areas.

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