PAHO, local groups to offer 35,000 free covid tests

After weeks of Carnival parties and two days of playing mas in large crowds without wearing masks or following any covid19 protocols, the number of covid19 cases in TT is expected to rise.

To ensure the public knows their covid19 status and so can take proper precautions, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Catholic Commission for Social Justice’s Archdiocesan Ministry for Migrants and Refugees (AMMR), the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation, and the Medical Research Foundation of TT have come together to offer free covid19 antigen testing.

The community outreach programme, Party Done, has already tested about 300 people over two days on the Brian Lara Promenade and at UWI, St Augustine last week. The test kits were provided by PAHO,

On Saturday, the organisations hosted another event at the promenade and intend to host two others on March 11 and 18 at City Gate, Port of Spain and the San Juan Promenade respectively.

Matthew Pierre, community outreach co-ordinator for AMMR said, “We just came out of the Carnival season and we do expect a rise in unreported cases so we want to try to capture that. We also want to be able to let persons know if they are covid-free or not.”

Valerie Wilson, director of the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation explained the process saying after people register, they are taken to the trained testers where people were instructed on how to swab themselves. After waiting about 15 minutes, doctors give people their results and answer any questions.

“Whether people test positive or negative they are given advice on how to stay negative, or, if they are positive, how they could access services through the Ministry of Health, what they should do in terms of their own health as well as their families’ and other contacts, to reduce the spread of the virus.”

Dr Nyla Lyons with the Medical Research Foundation said people have access to two doctors for counselling and advice, especially for people with comorbidities, some of whom are afraid of getting covid19.

The Foundation also stationed an ambulance with an oxygen tank and access to emergency medication close by in case of an emergency.

She said even after three years of covid19, it is still important to build awareness and increase access to testing, and thanks to PAHO, they have over 35,000 tests in stock.

“Covid19 is really a public health issue and, as we go into what we call the normalisation stage, we hope to see it integrated with other vaccines. We have to now normalise the experience because covid19 is something we have to live with. As public health specialists, we have to continue to put the right word out there and encourage people to come and get tested, come and get screened, know your status.”

Lyons said the organisations were working with the Ministry of Health so the exercise is a rapid screening test. So, if positive, the patient would be referred to a health centre to get a PCR test and get their quarantine protocols. And all positive tests will be reported to the ministry.

Within the first two hours of the event, about 40 people were tested and there was a steady stream of visitors.

Candice Marks of Diego Martin said she saw an advertisement for the event on Facebook and decided to go because it was free.

“It’s a good initiative because usually you have to pay for a rapid test. And it’s a good idea because I thought, especially after Carnival, it was best to know my status.”

Micah Burke of Gonzales said he was just passing by when someone stopped him and told him about the testing. He said he had never taken a covid19 test before and, since it was free and he had some time, he did it.

“I realise covid could take anyone at any time so I am careful and wear my mask. This is a good way to be sure about whether I have it or not.”

One woman from Mausica said she came to Port of Spain to do some business when she saw the tents and went to enquire about them. She said she decided to get tested because, even though she was not feeling unwell, she had attended a few Carnival fetes where she did not wear any masks and wanted to be sure.

Source: Newsday