Fri | Aug 7, 2020

Guy says COVID pretesting should apply to entire US

Published:Friday | July 3, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Opposition Spokesperson on Health Dr Morais Guy - File photo

Judana Murphy, Gleaner Writer 

Opposition Spokesperson on Health Dr Morais Guy has asserted that the new COVID-19 pretesting protocol, which became operational on July 1, should not be limited to high-risk American states.

Visitors from Florida, New York, Arizona, and Texas are required to pretest for the virus and upload a valid Polymerase Chain Reaction test in order to enter Jamaica.

READ: Hurdle for visitors from high-risk COVID US states

The aforementioned states have recorded almost 30 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the United States and are among Jamaica’s most important source markets.

Guy said that singling out states creates the potential for people to be dishonest, and that could put the country at “greater risk”.

“For example, I live in New York and I drive across and go to New Jersey to where my aunt lives. I’m not required to present a test because I’m coming from New Jersey,” he said on Thursday during a meeting of the special select committee discussing Jamaica’s response to COVID-19.

“It is on that basis, that ideally, it should be the entire country as opposed to the four states in the country which would be required to do this ... . It is the country which has the greatest number of positives and deaths in the world, and it is something that the chairman may have to have a relook at,” he said.

More than 2.7 million Americans have contracted the virus while in excess of 130,000 people have died.

In response, Committee Chairman Dr Christopher Tufton, who is also the health and wellness minister, said Guy’s suggestion may become the position of the Government.

“It is a very fluid situation, but at this point, it was felt that we would begin with this approach. One of the positives I think of the approach of the Government is we have very short spurts of redirecting the policy position - two-week spurts,” Tufton said.

Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie reported that there is a backlog of samples to be tested but she did not provide a figure.

“From time to time, we do have to prioritise certain samples, and especially like how we have changed the protocol because we see what is happening in the United States with the increase in numbers, we have asked for the first two or so days that we prioritise samples coming in from high-risk areas,” she said.

Bisasor-McKenzie explained that the National Public Health Laboratory has been asked to reserve one machine to test samples taken during general hospital surveillance, community surveillance, and contact tracing.

Tufton said that the staff at a private lab is currently being trained to collect samples as the health ministry moves to reduce the number of tests taken at airports.

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