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PAHO: Testing the best way

By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT

tsmith-cartwright@tribunemedia.net

THE Pan American Health Organisation says testing is the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and countries in the region should take that route.

“Slowing the spread of COVID-19 rests on the ability of countries’ health personnel to figure out when someone is sick,” said Ashley Baldwin, PAHO representative.

“At the individual level, accurate testing allows patients to be better managed and prevents the virus from infecting others. At the community level, it allows countries to track changes in the spread of the virus and adjust the response.

“PCR diagnostic tests, which are highly accurate and must be conducted in lab settings, are the gold standard of COVID-19 testing. However, while they are hugely reliable, they require specialised laboratories, personnel and equipment. This type of equipment is only available in a limited number of laboratories and samples must be shipped under controlled conditions from collection sites.”

Ms Baldwin said this means that for many hard to reach areas in this region, it can take several days for results to become available. The new rapid, antigen tests, however, she said, will enable primary healthcare workers – even those working in remote locations – to diagnose and care for patients immediately, stopping future infections in their tracks.

“It is important to highlight, however, that PCR tests are, and will remain, the gold standard for COVID-19 testing,” she said. “While we are very excited about the possibilities that the new antigen tests imply, it is important to emphasise that they do not replace PCR testing.”

PAHO/WHO representative Dr Esther de Gourville said there is little evidence that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing in New Providence and Abaco. She said PAHO is very concerned about how overwhelmed local health services are.

“The main elements of the discussion (between PAHO and health officials in The Bahamas) were an overview of trends in the COVID-19 outbreak over time, the progress made in several islands but little evidence of slowing of the outbreak in New Providence and more recently Abaco, concerns about health services being increasingly overwhelmed by the volume of cases, recent trends in age group distribution of cases and deceased persons, and the links between health and the economy,” she said.

“PAHO advocated for an ‘all of society’ response to bringing the outbreak under control. PAHO considers that public participation and compliance with public health interventions of mask use, hand hygiene and physical distancing must be implemented in all areas to reduce transmission.”

Dr de Gourville said since the start of the outbreak PAHO/WHO have recommended public health policies for the consideration of their member countries and territories. And, she said, as a sovereign country, The Bahamas’ authorities decide on the policies they wish to adopt.

“A comprehensive range of measures and policies have been adopted in health and other sectors and are well publicised by the government of The Bahamas,” she continued. “I am unable to speculate on the differences between outbreaks in different Caribbean countries. However, I can say that surges in cases have been seen elsewhere, similar to the situation in The Bahamas.

“In reviewing the number of reported cases, one also has to consider the population sizes and the particular epidemiological context of each country.”

The country has now recorded more than 6,000 cases of COVID-19, according to health officials. The bulk of these cases came after July 1, when the country reopened its borders after closing them in March.

Comments

thps 3 years, 7 months ago

But didn't our leaders reject the broader testing strategy?

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tribanon 3 years, 7 months ago

No surprises here. Minnis's foolish yo-yo lockdown orders have all but destroyed our country. All he ever had to do was keep our borders closed to travelers and not do what he so stupidly did on July 1. So many Bahamians have died and will die as a result of Minnis and D'Aguilar's most fateful decision to pre-maturely re-open our borders on July 1. How these two can live with themselves continuing on as cabinet ministers knowing the great loss of life they have caused is truly beyond comprehension. They both should have long ago resigned.

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Bobsyeruncle 3 years, 7 months ago

More testing is not going to slow down the spread of the virus unless:

a) We have rapid free testing with results turnaround the same day, or even better, within the hour.

b) We have a plan on what to do with people testing positive i.e. not letting them circulate back into the general population until they test negative.

c) Those testing positive, closely adhere to the requirements laid out in b)

My guess would be c) will be the hardest to accomplish.

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bahamianson 3 years, 7 months ago

Testing ,.then what? Testing , quarantine, and if you break quarantine , we do a China on you....cut your legs off.

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Economist 3 years, 7 months ago

Finally they ahve seen the light.

But the government is so busy supporting non-essential services at a cost of $30 million plus there is no money for the Peoples health.

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ColumbusPillow 3 years, 7 months ago

Rapid testing (15 minutes) MUST BE AVAILABLE NOW in order that people who are not infected can go back to work and get our economy back. Lockdowns are not the solution.

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