Doctor addresses fears over accuracy of local Covid PCR tests

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Laboratory Director at Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC) Dr Lester Simon has sought to ease public anxiety over an apparent disparity between the number of Covid-19 cases confirmed by MSJMC compared to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

Since the implementation of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing at MJSMC, concerns have been raised that far fewer positive cases are identified by the local hospital than the Trinidad-based regional body.

Dr Simon, who is also a consultant pathologist at MSJMC, explained that the difference lies in the reason people are tested.

Samples sent to CARPHA largely come from contract tracing, he said.

“So, you would expect a higher degree of positivity in those samples from CARPHA. We [MSJMC] are dealing largely with the travelling public. We do a few contact tracings, but largely we focus on travellers,” Dr Simon explained, referring to widespread requirements for international travellers coming in and out of the country to show proof of a negative coronavirus test.

He also attempted to dispel fears surrounding the validity of the tests undertaken locally.

“We do the exact same test. We do the PCR here, CARPHA does the PCR and we also started doing antigen testing. There is no difference with the PCR testing done here,” said Dr Simon.

He further explained that thanks to the addition of another PCR test machine, the hospital has been able to increase the number of tests carried out in a single day.

“We started off doing 30 per day three days per week. Then we had to move to doing 100-plus per day from Monday to Friday. We have even had to include testing on Saturday starting from next week and now we are doing close to 200,” he added.

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