Guy again calls for COVID-19 pretesting to manage issues at ports

Guy again calls for COVID-19 pretesting to manage issues at ports

Sunday, July 12, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Opposition spokesman on health, Dr Morais Guy, says Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton and the Government are failing to properly manage the COVID-19 testing protocol at the nation's ports of entry and putting the safety of the society at risk.

Guy noted that the authorities have failed to ensure that test results for incoming passengers are available within the promised time period of 48 hours.

In some cases, according to the Opposition spokesman, individuals have visited the island, submitted themselves to the testing protocol, and have since left the country without the benefit of these results.

He noted that there are widespread reports of individuals who have taken the test and are still in the island but are yet to receive follow-up contact from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, despite providing all the relevant information.

Guy said Tufton has further indicated that the high volume of tests required has overwhelmed the country's capacity.

“The minister of health and the Ministry of Health and Wellness ignored the recommendations from stakeholders in the sector, including the Medical Doctors' Association that the best option for Jamaica remains pretesting at the point of embarkation. Pretesting would reduce or eliminate some of the challenges facing the country to test, trace and monitor the self-quarantine of those who have come for vacation or to visit family,” Guy said in a release today.

He noted that from the beginning, we were told that there was a limited number of kits available; so, to re-open the borders with the expectation of testing everyone was “foolhardy”.

“It seems that no one looked at the long-term implication of the re-opening the borders, the possible influx of hundreds of visitors versus the availability of supply of testing kits. This was not supposed to be a public relations exercise; it was supposed to be a serious attempt at protecting the Jamaican society from the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he continued.

The Opposition spokesman said the “more than two-week backlog” of test results for people entering the country is exceptionally troubling because many of the individuals have been in contact with locals and have since left Jamaica without knowing their status. He added that asking people to self-quarantine without following-up on their compliance, defeats the purpose of the testing regime.

Guy further noted that other countries in the region have put in place systems requiring incoming passengers to show negative test results before boarding flights, yet, Jamaica chose to take on the testing, unnecessarily expanding our limited resources.

“It is not too late to reverse course and require pretesting of all arriving passengers at the ports of embarkation while maintaining our assessment of these passengers,” he said.

Guy added that the decision to revert to testing only people with symptoms will not offer much protection to the society as people who are carrying the virus and are asymptomatic still pose a threat.

“We need persons to demonstrate that they are not carriers of the coronavirus before they enter our country and nothing else is acceptable,” he said.

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