THA Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael. PHOTO COURTESY THA –
Secretary of Health Dr Faith BYisrael said there was no real opposition from Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh after she officially informed him that her division is seeking foreign assistance and will be using rapid tests more extensively in the fight against covid19 in Tobago.
BYisrael, who was sworn into office on December 10, held introductory talks online with Deyalsingh and CMO Dr Roshan Parasram on Tuesday.
At Wednesday’s press briefing, Deyalsingh described the meeting as “productive.”
Also present at the meeting was Shelly Trim, the new administrator, Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection. Deyalsingh said it was important for the Permanent Secretary to meet the new administrator.
“General topics were discussed – how we can continue to assist Tobago,” Deyalsingh said. “It was a general introductory meeting and then the technical people will continue to meet, as they have done regardless of who is in power at the THA. We continue to work with the THA and TRHA as TT continues to fight this pandemic.”
Asked by Newsday whether she discussed some of her plans for health, including seeking foreign aid and greater use of rapid tests, BYisrael said, “It was raised.”
She added, “We will do what we need to do to treat with managing covid19 in Tobago.”
Last week BYisrael said the THA had reached out to international partners to get rapid test kits donated. She said the world has been moving more towards the cheaper rapid tests instead of the PCR tests.
“It just is unrealistic to think that we could do the PCR test for every single person who we think is infected,” she told TV6 Morning Edition.
Asked by Newsday about the lower accuracy of rapid tests and the threat of false negatives or positives, BYisrael said the THA would be using it as a screening tool and not for entry to the hospital.
“We do recognise there are false positives. It’s a screening tool. But the idea of doing screening – we can test instead of waiting long for the (PCR) test. It is to ramp up screening of various groups of people to pick up someone who may be positive.”
She cited United Kingdom guidance on the use of lateral flow device (LFD) self-test kits for school officials and students while they are at home.
According to the UK guidelines, asymptomatic staff and students of secondary-school age and above should test twice weekly at home, with LFD test kits, three-four days apart. Any positive result will result in the individual having to self-isolate at home and do a PCR test.
A negative PCR test will override the LFD test and the student can return to class once they have no covid19 symptoms.
BYisrael said, “All this is not new. It may be new to here, but these are not novel. There are places all over the world doing this.”