Smuggled antigen test kits affecting COVID-19 resultsWednesday, July 21, 2021
THERE are concerns that some people are receiving erroneous COVID-19 test results due to a combination of factors, including use of antigen test kits which are being smuggled into the island.
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton stressed yesterday that kits being used for antigen testing must be World Health Organization (WHO)-approved and validated by the national public health lab. 'The reality is that there are other kits out there that are brought in normally under the radar, and are being used almost at will and without any proper guidance, and persons are interpreting those results oftentimes incorrectly,” Tufton told members at a meeting of the joint select committee on COVID-19, yesterday.
At the same time, Dr Tufton expressed concerns about the high cost of COVID-19 tests. “I'm a little concerned, to say the least, at the cost of these tests even with the opening up of the space to include the private players. The costs are high, in some instances some people are paying over US$100 for a test, so persons are avoiding taking [tests] where they need to because of those costs,” he said. The health minister said tests are available free of cost in public health facilities, with assessment from a physician.Chief Medical Officer Dr Jaquiline Bisasor McKenzie explained that antigen testing was initially introduced to help facilitate travelling requirements.“While we may pick up some persons who are going to be positive from those tests, the vast majority of persons would be expected to be negative, so the antigen test in the private sector, we are hoping that it is the travellers that will access that,” she stated.In the meantime, national epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster Kerr said the levels of transmission, geographic spread, and hospital bed occupancy from COVID-19 are medium at this time but that the reproductive rate of the virus is increasing at 1.1, and vaccination level is too low to have any significant effect on transmission.Dr Webster Kerr further explained, “At one it means we are steady if we are at 75 persons being confirmed for today, it would be 75 the next day, if we are at 1.1, in 24 days you probably would have doubled to 150, so that point one means there is an exponential increase but how fast it increases is lower compared to three where every five or six days one person would have transmitted to six persons.”But Dr Bisasor McKenzie said that 1.1 could easily slip back to March-April surge-inducing reproductive rates of 1.3 per cent. “So 1.1 at this time is very worrying because we could easily go from 1.1 to 1.3 again, and with what is happening across the world, the risk is there,” she said.
Meanwhile, the health minister said the country should be on the watch for the Delta variant of the virus inevitably showing up in the population.“We have to be as straightforward with the country as possible, not just on the evidence but on the likelihood based on projections and circumstances. The most recent samples that are to go off, which would contain samples of June and July, would be our key insight into whether the Delta variant is here. Based on the interactions that we are having as an open society with other geographic spaces that have the Delta variant as a dominant feature of those populations, I believe it is more a matter of time before we detect that variant here. This is the nature of the virus, this is how it spreads,” he said.
— Alphea Saunders
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