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COVID 19 testing

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By On-Foot Observer

An eenie-meenie-miney-moe strategy to multiple choice tests almost certainly leads to failure, yet, there are some tests to which we cannot risk a failing grade” – On-Foot Observer

The Ministry of Health of St. Vincent and the Grenadines recently announced changes to its COVID-19 testing protocol. It was declared that only passengers deemed as high risk would be tested for COVID-19 upon entry. Some of the people who would be classified as high risk are those who are unvaccinated. Also, while in quarantine, further testing would only be required at the discretion of the port health team. Those who are COVID-19 positive would be released from isolation without a PCR test after 14 days, if unvaccinated, or 10 days if vaccinated, given that they do not show any symptoms for the last three isolation days.

What is most bewildering about the press release though, is the term that it used to describe these new rules—strategic. 

Have we somehow forgotten that not only can the fully vaccinated contract and transmit the disease, as evidenced by the number of breakthrough cases we have here, but that the more deadly delta variant was first brought here by someone fully vaccinated? That person also happened to be asymptomatic. Now, consider if this new testing protocol had already been in play back then. We would have had absolutely no reason to test this person, since they would not have fallen within the high risk category.

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Wouldn’t such a protocol then have been the cause for that same Delta variant case to go undetected?

What if the infected person is asymptomatic—as are most COVID-19 cases—including that particular first Delta case?

After 10 or 14 days, the same new protocol would have them released from isolation without a PCR test once they show no symptoms for the last three days of isolation—even though they were asymptomatic to begin with.

How strategic is that?

Considering all this, you must agree that this new approach to testing is akin to an eenie-meenie-miney-moe strategy for the detection of the Coronavirus. With testing being carried out on such a loose and discretional basis, one might be tempted to conclude that there is really no need to test people for COVID-19.

We have to assume that at any given time, the health authorities not only have a predefined quantity of PCR tests, but also a working inventory of same, to inform testing protocol. However, we would recall that all unvaccinated public servants, as well as some unvaccinated private sector employees were required to take a PCR test every two weeks. Of course, this initiative would have detected a few positive cases. I can appreciate that we have community spread, and that the disease is likely sprinkled throughout our population. However, how is the arbitrary PCR testing of our public servants and private sector workers serving the interest of public health when the majority of them repeatedly return negative PCR test results? 

Is it that we cannot take the chance of allowing these workers to go untested—even though they have largely been yielding negative tests results constantly—but we reckon that we can take a chance with people coming in from other countries whom we’ve likely never tested before?

I can appreciate that it would be ideal to have frequent testing of a broad cross-section of Vincentians. However, it should never be at the expense of the testing of the obviously more critical group of people. Testing everyone arriving to the country, as well as people pinpointed by contact tracing should take priority. Their vaccination status should count for nothing where testing is concerned, since it has been long established that both unvaccinated and vaccinated people can catch and spread the disease. We are in a pandemic after all, and the virus got to our shores by way of incoming travellers, and people they were in close contact with.

Could it be that our frequent testing of unvaccinated public and private workers has put an immense strain on our testing supplies, to the point of almost depleting it?

Wouldn’t it make more sense at this moment to intensify the testing of entering travellers and people who have been exposed to positive cases instead of relaxing it? Wouldn’t that be more strategic, in the traditional sense — or are we reaching for some other sense of the word?

Logic would dictate that we reserve our limited testing resources to be used for people who pose the highest likelihood of being COVID-19 positive. Surely we can admit that the large scale, sweeping method that we have taken to the testing may be ideal on paper, but problematic in practice. 

Perhaps, however, there is a kind of logic to the move, and it is strategic, to a certain end. Perhaps whoever came up with it may not be as inept as we may think. They may well be very practical about finding solutions to blunders. 

According to the Chief Medical Officer, these changes to the testing protocol are in keeping with the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). This gives the impression that we are to feel ultimately reassured about it since it is supported by the WHO and PAHO. 

So, does it automatically become sensible because the WHO and PAHO said it?

Or, is it that these guidelines are now most convenient for the situation in which we have found ourselves? 

Are we are so caught up in “following the science” that we neglect to follow the logic?

Authority and pre-eminence alone must never be enough to make you turn a blind eye to obvious folly. The WHO and PAHO are not exempt from being wrong. Folly handed down from on high, is still folly. An eenie-meenie-miney-moe strategy does not work in a multiple choice test for marks, much less this test, in which failure risks us far more than just an unsightly report card.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

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2 replies on “‘Following the science’ to the point of ignoring logic?”

  1. nancysauldemers says:

    The author seems to have forgotten, or is choosing to ignore, that all those arriving in SVG by air and by boat must have a negative COVID PCR test result, obtained from testing within 72 hours. This negates much if not all of his or her argument.

  2. I’m not convinced that the CMO initiated this. Seems to me this is all economics. Testing is proving to be expensive so our safety is being compromised

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