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Chris Jones, Health Minister at odds over isolation time

Former Director of Sport, Christopher Jones.

Opposition parliamentarian, Christopher Jones and Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony were Thursday at odds over when the isolation of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases begin, with at least one test centre doctor confirming that isolation begins on the day the test was taken,

Mr. Jones said he was told that his 13-day home isolation began on taking the COVID-19 test.  He explained that he was tested on August 18 and he remained in isolation since then based on guidance from public health workers at the test site in Kitty. He added that based on further guidance from the Public Health Ministry if a positive patient shows no signs or symptoms 10 days later, he or she remains in isolation  for another three days.

This procedure was confirmed by calls to one of the COVID-19 hotlines on Thursday. A doctor said the home isolation period is 10 for persons without symptoms and those with symptoms are isolated up to 14 days and depending on their condition another seven or 14 days are added.  “The home isolation starts from the day when you had the test, when the sample is taken off, not the day when you get the result,” a Ministry of Health doctor said on condition of anonymity.

However, Dr. Anthony said the isolation period begins on receipt of a positive COVID-19 test. “You can’t go into isolation if you don’t have a positive result. You would only be told  to go into isolation once your result is known and you only know the result from that date that the test was done,”  the Health Minister told News-Talk Radio Guyana / Demerara Waves Online News.

The Health Minister said Mr. Jones received his result on August 23, after which he was told to isolate.  A doctor at a COVID-19 test centre explained that if the COVID-19 positive person is experiencing mild symptoms or recovering, he or she is advised to remain in isolation for another 10 days.

Dr Frank Anthony

Controversy erupted earlier this week when the Health Minister disclosed to the House Speaker and Clerk of the National Assembly that preventative measures ought to be taken because Mr. Jones and fellow A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) parliamentarian, Sherod Duncan tested positive and should have been isolation instead of at the parliamentary sitting on Tuesday.

Mr. Duncan was tested positive on August 26, the minister said.

Mr. Jones maintained that he abided by the advice provided by the COVID-19 test site representatives and remained in isolation until 13 days had passed by which time he was not constrained from attending the sitting of the National Assembly on September 1, 2020. “I was outside of the period.  For ten days, no symptoms, three additional days, no symptoms…I have my own doctors who have been guiding me daily… I do my own temperature tests every single day. I have a little diary that I note all of these things and, off course, using the remedies, the vitamin C and building my Vitamin C and so forth,” said Mr. Jones. He questioned the logic of self-isolating only after receiving a positive result as that could cause the carrier to spread the virus while awaiting results.

The Health Minister chided Mr. Jones and Mr. Duncan for failing to act responsibly. “People model their behaviour and in something like this if they do the right thing, people would do the right thing. If they rebel against the system, people would want to imitate that so it’s not a good example in the pandemic to have national leaders do these kinds of things,” said Dr. Anthony, a Public Health specialist.

Up to Wednesday, there were nine new cases, 71  hospitalised and 477 isolated at home. Of the 1,382 positive cases recorded since March, 779 have recovered.

There is a backlog of more than 1,000 samples waiting to be tested, but with the acquisition of more advanced laboratory equipment that number is expected to be reduced in the coming weeks. About 500 other samples have been dispatched to the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad to help reduce the backlog.