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Up to $50k a week planned for free test programme

HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville.
Photo: Donavan McIntosh/Tribune staff

HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville. Photo: Donavan McIntosh/Tribune staff

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Senior Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

HEALTH Minister Dr Michael Darville said government hopes to spend no more than $40,000 to $50,000 per week on its pilot free COVID-19 testing programme in New Providence.

He said it is “difficult to come up with an exact figure because it is directly tied into a response from the general population”.

“Rapid antigen testing of asymptomatic individuals throughout New Providence is essential for individuals to know their COVID status,” he added.

“We believe that many in our community are very compliant and if they do have a positive test and are asymptomatic, that information will be forwarded to our contact tracers and the necessary isolation as well as quarantine programmes will be activated.”

Dr Darville said free antigen tests for asymptomatic people will be offered at multiple vaccination centres in New Providence “as part of (a) testing programme prior to the launch of the government’s free testing programme once the digital platform is completed and that we can finally marry once and for all free testing with contact tracing.”

The focus on antigen tests comes even though early indications suggest the tests – always less accurate than PCR tests – are even less accurate at detecting the Omicron variant.

Asked about this, infectious disease expert Dr Nikkiah Forbes said: “Yes, there is early information that the rapid antigen tests may be less likely and accurate to pick up COVID-19 cases from the Omicron strain and what does this translate into when we were looking at our practice and what we do is that if you are having symptoms and you have done a rapid antigen test and it is negative you should follow that up with a PCR test and we do have to be mindful of that and our technical team is looking closer at that to see if we will change any guidance.”

Meanwhile, Dr Cherita Moxey said some institutions are offering rapid antigen tests without authorisation from the Ministry of Health. It is not clear what enforcement measures are being undertaken to solve the problem.

Comments

TalRussell 6 months ago

Okay Minister Dr Michael Darville, now youse Covid theme is stretchin', so as be more like that utter fella, Renward and everything else like this and that, who certainly was no medical Einstein, ― Yes?

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bahamianson 6 months ago

Who is going to pay 50,000 a week? Oh, nust let the people wjom are paying taxes now foot the bill because after all, they must pay " their fair share". Bunch of bull kaka. The money has to come from somewhere. Let them pay a portion. After all, they are the ones whom think the vaccine is here to kill black people and do not want to be vaccinated.

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joeblow 6 months ago

... its stupid to test asymptomatic people for disease, especially one that causes mild symptoms and virtually no hospitalizations. This would not be happening if covid testing was not a whole new industry that benefits a few!

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sheeprunner12 6 months ago

Follow the money ........ Around the world.

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Bobsyeruncle 6 months ago

They're not testing just for Omicron !! All the other variants are still active. Omicron doesn't just come along and the other mutations magically disappear into thin air.!!

C'mon people, start using logic and some of those critical thinking skills you were taught skills, instead of defaulting to your emotional biases.

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joeblow 6 months ago

... it should be clear that the kind of testing I am talking about is the simple PCR or rapid antigen tests, which cannot distinguish viral subtypes. Gene sequencing testing is needed for that and I stand by what I said!

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Bobsyeruncle 6 months ago

The PCR test can identify the specific viral strain as long as the lab has the required technology to perform the sequencing.

And, your statement about "mild symptoms and virtually no hospitalizations" inferred you were talking specifically about Omicron and not all the strains. At least to me it did.

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Proguing 6 months ago

So since Omicron is like having a runny nose, we will be testing for a cold?

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Bobsyeruncle 6 months ago

People seem to forget that Omicron hasn't replaced the other variants, it's just the newest one. Delta is still very much out there, which is why testing is still important.

Omicron symptoms might be milder, but the same doesn't apply to Delta.

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joeblow 6 months ago

... obviously Delta was associated with increased morbidity, hospitalizations and death. It has already been stated by the health authorities that although infection rates are climbing hospitalizations are not, which is consistent with Omicron infections! It is also known wthat infection with Omicron provides added protection against infections with Delta variant! So in reality everyone should be encouraged to get Omicron!

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Bobsyeruncle 6 months ago

I have to admit, your last sentence has passed through my mind multiple times too.

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baclarke 6 months ago

"Asked about this, infectious disease expert Dr Nikkiah Forbes said: “Yes, there is early information that the rapid antigen tests may be less likely and accurate to pick up COVID-19 cases from the Omicron strain and what does this translate into when we were looking at our practice and what we do is that if you are having symptoms and you have done a rapid antigen test and it is negative you should follow that up with a PCR test and we do have to be mindful of that and our technical team is looking closer at that to see if we will change any guidance.”"

These people are nuts, who can afford or wants to pay hundreds of dollars on tests, if you do not have severe symptoms/asymptomatic? While the government's efforts at providing free testing is commendable. We can probably save money and some relief by providing self-testing kits for the population as is currently being done in other countries.

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sheeprunner12 6 months ago

Meanwhile, CDC/FDA are losing faith in PCR tests to detect Covid ........ What's next??????

Fellow Forbes needs to comment on that

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