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COVID-19 under radar in Westmoreland as self-testers hide status

Published:Wednesday | May 18, 2022 | 12:08 AM


MEDICAL OFFICER of Health at the Westmoreland Health Services, Dr Marcia Graham, has raised concern about the accuracy of coronavirus records in the parish because persons using self-testing kits are not turning over results to the authorities.

Graham’s revelation during last week’s general meeting of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation coincides with rising COVID-19 cases amid what some health experts are already declaring a fifth wave of the pandemic.

“There are persons whose test kits are positive, and they only come to the health department because their workplace asked them to get a letter to go back to work when we were not aware that they were COVID-19 positive because they did the self-test kit in the privacy of their home,” Graham said.

The medical officer of health said that the challenge has deepened with the ready access of COVID-19 home self-testing kits at local pharmacies.

Self-testing kits are widely available over the counter at pharmacies in western Jamaica, with prices as low as $2,325.00 in St James and as high as $2,760 in Westmoreland.

Graham disclosed that some persons who had subjected themselves to self-test kits, with the assistance of private doctors, had refused to inform the health department of the results, opting instead to stay home.

Last October, Dr Christopher Tufton, the minister of health and wellness, distributed the first 5,000 COVID-19 self-testing kits to tourism workers from an initial stock of 40,000 valued at approximately $56 million.

“If you do a self-test kit and it is positive, it is important that you call the health department because we need to know and offer you the PCR test, which is the gold standard,” Graham insisted. “Also, we need to do the contact tracing so we can prevent the COVID-19 from spreading to others or else we will find ourselves in another surge in the parish.”

After weeks of single-digit recordings, Jamaica’s COVID-19 positivity rate has climbed over the last fortnight, with a high of 30 per cent.