Health officials warn residents about correct use of Covid rapid tests

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas
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By Orville Williams

[email protected]

The Health Ministry is urging residents to be vigilant and continue to comply with the established public health measures, even if they receive a negative Covid-19 result from a rapid antigen test.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, shared that advice during a media briefing yesterday, warning that all tests are susceptible to producing false results.

“A lot of persons get a false sense of security when they do a rapid antigen test and it’s negative, and they think ‘okay, I’m Covid-free, I can not wear my mask, I can hug someone, I can not practice the public health measures’.

“It’s very important that, even if you have a negative antigen test, you still adhere to the protocols – you still wear your mask, you still stay at least three feet away from persons [and] you still wash your hands regularly – because no test is 100 percent specific and sensitive.

“There will be false negatives, there will be false positives, so we have to continue with these protocols even if a person gets a negative test,” the CMO explained.

The CMO was supported in that advice by her Acting Deputy, Dr Teri-Ann Joseph, who also warned the public to be patient if they come in contact with someone who is, or believed to be, infected with Covid-19.

The understandable panic that sets in and pushes people to get tested right away, she says, leaves the door open for a bad situation.

“If you get a test before there’s enough virus in your body to be detected, then it’s also going to be negative. That’s why we say, if you’re exposed to somebody today, then there’s no point in doing a test today.

“We’d have to wait at least five days before we do a test, because it will come out negative – not because it’s a fault in the test itself, but because you don’t have enough virus in your body for it to show as positive as yet,” Dr Joseph said.

She also disclosed that, despite these concerns, the rapid antigen tests being utilised by the Health Ministry are proving very effective to this point.  

“We are concerned because we know that [false negative results] can happen. One of the steps that we’ve actually taken is to swab 10 percent of the persons who have a negative result on the antigen test for PCR [testing].

“So far, 100 percent of the times, those tests really are negative…so we’re happy with the rapid antigen tests that we’re using at this point,” she added.

Both the CMO and the Acting Deputy CMO were addressing the media with an update on the adjusted quarantine and isolation measures for persons infected with Covid-19.

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