26 persons tested for coronavirus so far

Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence

— confirmed cases remain at five, 170 under observation

BY Tamica Garnett
NOTWITHSTANDING growing concerns of transmission by the asymptomatic patients, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has only tested 26 of the 170 persons currently being monitored for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
This includes persons under institutional quarantine, home quarantine and institutional isolation.

Twenty-one of those tested were negative, as the country’s number of confirmed cases continues to remain at five, including one death since the first case was recorded on March 11. All of the five cases have been imported cases with no local transmission recorded thus far.

As of Wednesday, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) had received 696 calls from Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and 10 on the national coronavirus hotline. In Guyana, suspected cases are placed on 14-day quarantine. The ministry currently has four facilities that can provide services for up to 350 persons.

With the pandemic spreading fast, test kits for the virus has been in huge demand across the globe, making it difficult for many countries to source them. Countries are forced to limit the criteria for testing suspected cases. Guyana received a supply of 700 testing kits earlier this month.

According to reports, some test kits retail for as much as US$600 (GYD$124,200).
Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO), Dr. Karen Boyle, earlier this week, acknowledged that the limited resources restricted the ability to test randomly.

“If we had an unlimited number of tests and the tests weren’t as expensive as they were, we could have afforded to test whoever wanted to be tested, instead we’re using the suspected cases definition to determine who needs to be tested and who we will put on quarantine and observe,” she explained.

However, without testing, there is no way of detecting asymptomatic patients. Asymptomatic persons are those who have the virus but show no symptoms.

Some studies are reporting as much as 30 per cent of confirmed coronavirus patients showing no symptoms.

“We cannot stop this pandemic if we do not know who is infected. We have a simple message for every country, test, test, test,” World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had said during a news conference earlier this month.

Persons in quarantine are those persons who have been exposed to the virus but are not sick; while persons in Isolation are those who would have tested positive and are showing signs and symptoms. Only the four confirmed cases are currently under institutional isolation by the MoPH, while there are 31 persons under institutional quarantine and another 135 persons are under home quarantine.

Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence, explained that after the 14 days of quarantine, persons will be evaluated by a medical officer. Based on a review, persons will either be cleared or placed on additional days of quarantine. If cleared, they will be re-evaluated after seven days.

For those persons in isolation, they will be held for 14 days after which, if no new symptoms develop within three days prior to the 15th day, they will be tested twice within 24 hours.

“Psychosocial support for all persons is essential, regardless of their status and will be provided by the Psychosocial Unit with support from the Ministry of Social Protection,” the minister explained on Thursday, during the MoPH televised daily update on its ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, during the broadcast, the minister shared that the MoPH has begun contact tracing in Region Nine for persons who may have come into contact with the relative of a confirmed case in neighbouring Brazil, while the ministry is also addressing concerns of the group of Guyanese who have been quarantined since returning from Barbados on Wednesday night.

Minister Lawrence emphasised that notwithstanding rumours of a positive coronavirus case in Upper Takatu–Upper Essequibo, the country’s confirmed cases remains at five, including the one death.

“I wish to dispel fears with regard to reports of a positive case being in Region Nine. This is not a case for Guyana. The individual in question did not visit Guyana for the last two weeks prior to his confirmed status or after it was discovered. We are aware that his relative, who operates a business in Lethem, is under quarantine in Brazil, not Guyana. Both individuals are in Brazil,” Lawrence explained.

She added that: “There are no recorded cases of the COVID-19 virus in Lethem; however, the MoPH has begun contact tracing in Region Nine for persons who may have come into contact with the relative of a confirmed case in neighbouring Brazil.”

The minister said the Ministry of Communities (MoC) is also working closely with MoPH in all the regions in the rolling out of the COVID-19 Response Plan.

On the group from Barbados, the minister explained that the persons had committed to submit themselves to institutional quarantine if they were allowed to return to Guyana. Barbados reported its first case of the virus on March 17, and has since recorded a total of 18 cases, according to WHO statistics.

Given that Guyana has closed its airports to international passenger flights, the persons, totalling 17, were allowed to return to Guyana under special consideration on a chartered flight from the island. However, one person from the group shared that they were not tested for the virus before leaving Barbados, hence, mandatory quarantine being required.
“They were advised before their return that they will be in quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival. We wish to reiterate that these measures are an effort to protect all of us. All medical services are catered for at our sites,” Lawrence said.

The coronavirus has spread to 199 countries, infecting almost half a million persons since the first outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

According to WHO statistics, as of Thursday, over 21,000 persons had died as a result of being infected by the virus.

In the Region of Americas, the total number of confirmed cases stands at 70,877, with 977 deaths in 48 countries.