Covid testing set to come to select community health centres

Chief Pathologist at Sir Lester Bird Mount St John’s Medical Centre’s laboratory, Dr Lester Simon
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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

Health officials will be venturing out to select community health centres shortly to offer rapid antigen Covid tests to residents.

Chief Pathologist and head of the hospital’s laboratory, Dr Lester Simon, made the disclosure on Sunday, explaining that health officials will be shifting focus amid evolving dynamics.

For a little over three weeks, Antigua and Barbuda has not recorded any new coronavirus cases, while vaccination numbers are trending upwards.

Simon said this gives healthcare officials the opportunity to offer more testing to people in general, and not just the contacts of persons who tested positive for the virus.

“The contacts have dwindled to zero … to the point that over a week or two we have not sent any case to CARPHA for testing; only for variant testing. The reason for that is that CARPHA only accepts epidemiological cases. Travellers and others pay for their tests; we don’t send those to CARPHA.

“The key point is, since the contacts are not there, we have to go looking for cases and that’s why we will be rolling out testing in the clinics, starting with one or two as a pilot, so we can check for one or two cases that may be out there,” Dr Simon explained.

However, some residents believe the zero cases is due to the fact that health authorities are not conducting enough testing – claims Dr Simon rebuffed.

“We have increased the number of tests that we are doing,” he said. “We have maintained a certain level because travels have increased, there are a number of surgical cases, and people who are returning, though fully vaccinated, still have to be tested to ensure there is no outbreak or anything,” the pathologist explained.

He also emphasised the importance of testing, while noting that Covid is both a loud as well as a silent killer, and in order to detect it, testing must be conducted.

“Some Covid-positive people who have no signs or symptoms whatsoever and think they are perfectly normal, are not normal at all.

“CT scans of their lungs show scar tissue from damage to the lung by Covid. Yes, these scars are less than those seen in severe Covid, but they are there,” Dr Simon added.

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