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PCR testing sites available countrywide, but public slow to take tests

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 September 2021, 14:53 by Denis Chabrol

The Infectious Disease Hospital at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara.

Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony has said that there are PCR and antigen testing sites countrywide, but Guyanese have been slow to take advantage of the opportunity for fear that they would be tested positive.

He sought to counter his predecessor’s call for PCR testing sites to be set up countrywide to help spot and trace COVID cases early. “If she has been following what’s going on, she would know that we have PCR testing now,” he told News-Talk Radio Guyana /Demerara Waves Online News. “We are doing PCR tests countrywide. We have put point-of-care machines,” he said.

He said that the PCR test was available in all of the administrative regions and the results could be obtained within an hour through the use of a  gene expert machine.

“In all the regions, the doctors can do swabbing and they send those samples out to Georgetown and they get back their results within a twenty-four period so even if you don’t have a machine, you can swab and send your samples and that would be run by the National Public Health Reference Lab,” he said.

“We have been doing it for people who have been exposed and who would have clinical signs and symptoms to confirm COVID so it is part of the clinical management of these patients,” he said, adding that the tests are provided free of cost after the screening process.

The Health Minister said the PCR tests are taken from persons who have been “exposed” to the virus and the laboratory personnel could attest to that during an interview. He said more than 200,000 PCR tests have been administered.

Although all regions have sufficient antigen and PCR tests, the Health Minister lamented the few number of persons who have been testing for COVID.

“Sometimes in the regions, you have low levels of testing because people just don’t want to be tested so in some cases they might display signs and symptoms but they just don’t want to be tested because testing would confirm that they do have COVID and then, maybe, they have to abide by the rules so if they don’t know then they are in denial but the problem is they are going to infect a lot of other people around them so that’s why it is essential they they come forward and get tested,” he said.

Former Health Minister, Volda Lawrence last week recommended that free PCR tests be established across Guyana as a way of assisting Guyanese to manage the spread of the virus while those hesitant about taking vaccines make up their mind.  “I believe that we need to ensure that we allow people to go to more sites and we provide the free PCR. We are at that stage where there are persons who will not take the vaccine for one reason or the other,” she said.

Health Minister Dr. Anthony, meanwhile, on Tuesday said the “full complement” of staff  at the Ocean View, Liliendaal-based Infectious Disease Hospital is made up of 55 doctors who manage an average of 120 persons as well as physiotherapy staff.

He said that of the 164 persons now hospitalised countrywide,; 84 are at the COVID hospital at Liliendaal and 30 of them are in the Intensive Care Unit.

Latest official figures show that 348,534 adults or 67.9 percent of the population have taken a first dose vaccine and 179,965  adults or 35.1 percent of the population have taken a second dose. In terms of persons between 12 and 17 years old, 20,896 children or 28.7 percent have taken a first dose Pfizer.