Health Ministry prepares to start ‘surveillance testing’ across country for Covid-19

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Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said that, for the first time, the government will begin the process of testing persons for Covid-19 who did not present with symptoms and were not located through contact tracing.

The procedure, described as ‘surveillance testing’, was recommended by chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram and will be done at random across the country from Tuesday 14 April.

Photo: Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh.

“We have taken the decision to ramp up our testing across the country, to do what is called surveillance testing,” said Deyalsingh, at today’s press conference. “From Tuesday, we will be selecting one health centre in every county where we will be randomly sampling people who have viral illness symptoms—not necessarily Covid; but once you have a viral symptoms, like a stuff nose, a cough, a fever, we will start that enhanced protocol of sampling.

“[…] What that will do, as [the chief medical officer] has told me, is give us some idea of what is circulating in the country besides Covid; and if Covid is there in these communities that we don’t know about.”

The sampling will be voluntary. Deyalsingh did not say how many persons the Health Ministry hopes to target through its surveillance testing and, at the third time of asking, he still could not tell reporters how many persons—as opposed to samples—have been tested so far on the twin island republic.

At present, Trinidad and Tobago has 109 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus after 1,045 tests done by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). There have been eight deaths and one discharge.

The Health Ministry had hoped to start testing independently of CARPHA since 27 March but remains unable to do so today, since it still has not had its Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines validated by the regional body.

Photo: Doctors swab a patient as part of the test for Covid-19.

Deyalsingh hopes to have two additional discharges today while 22 persons quarantined in Balandra could also be free to return home by this weekend, pending negative test results.

When asked whether the Health Ministry would allow persons to self-isolate while awaiting results, so as to encourage more persons to present without fear of immediate quarantine, Deyalsingh said only that it was a decision for his CMO.

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About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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