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Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache in an April 2020 iWN photo.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache in an April 2020 iWN photo.

People who test positive for COVID-19 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be released from home isolation without a PCR test, if they are symptom-free for the three days leading up to the release.

The isolation period will be 14 days for unvaccinated people and 10 days for the vaccinated, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache said on WE FM on Thursday.

Keizer-Beache said that the changes are in keeping with World Health Organization and Pan-American Health Organization guidelines issued in June and  implemented locally last Wednesday. 

She said that health officials will be contacting people who have been in isolation for 14 days.

“If we don’t contact you, we ask that you contact a clinic to confirm that you can be released from isolation without a PCR test. 

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“If you are 14 days and you have … symptoms, you still need to meet with your healthcare provider,” Keizer-Beache said.

“Again, this is coming from worldwide evidence and the recommendation from WHO and PAHO. And the other thing is that a close contact is somebody who has spent 15 minutes or more within two metres (6.5 feet)  of a known positive.”

That close contact would be tested between five and seven days post-contact. 

Keizer-Beache further said that there is a change to the approach to testing to determine whether a person is COVID-19 positive. 

“If somebody has symptoms — fever, cough, cold, we do a rapid antigen test — which gives results in 20 minutes  — and if it is positive, it means that the person is positive.”

Keizer-Beache said that during periods when there is not an upsurge in cases, a positive rapid test would be followed up with a PCR test.

“But … the evidence is clear that if somebody, during an outbreak, has symptoms which are consistent with COVID, there is no need to go from a positive antigen on to a PCR. 

“So anybody with a positive antigen [test] with symptoms would be considered as positive and there would be no need to do the PCR, which is what the lab does. Anyone who does not have symptoms and is positive on a rapid antigen test would have a PCR test done.”

She said that with over 1,000 active cases  of COVID-19 in SVG, there is a high number of samples coming into the lab for testing daily.

On top of that the lab has been “plagued by” staff exhaustion and people falling sick, the CMO said, adding that health officials have considered bringing in new staff, but the  work of the laboratory is highly-specialised and it is difficult to get people who can easily fit in.

Keizer-Beache further said that the lab had been out of kits because of the increased demand for testing at this time, but was able to source some on Friday.

With the kits as well as staff returning, the lab would be able to deal with the backlog, Keizer-Beache said, adding that some people have been waiting since Tuesday to get their results back.

She said that Kingstown has sent some samples to the Caribbean Public Health Agency  (CARPHA) laboratory in Trinidad in an effort to help with the backlog but there was some delay in the return of the results.

“We are doing everything we can … to take care of that backlog. But, as you would imagine, even as you deal with the backlog, you have new samples every day. But, it is our intention to get rid of that backlog as much as possible, working as many hours throughout the day continuously to address that,” Keizer-Beache said.