BDU calls for rapid antigen tests to be incorporated in COVID dashboard
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Doctors Union President Dr Melisandre Bassett yesterday expressed concerns about the effectiveness of follow-up rapid antigen testing for travelers to The Bahamas.
She said it was hoped that officials would begin with a more COVID sensitive test first before scaling back as the capture rate of cases lowered.
“Certainly, earlier on, we would have expressed our concern that we were switching to a rapid antigen test as opposed to going to something that had a greater sensitivity, which was the PCR,” she told Eyewitness News.
“You have a better assurance of capturing positives with the PCR as opposed to the rapid antigen.
“I think it’s something like 95 to 60 percent, I stand to be corrected on that.
“So, that was a concern for us.
“We would have hoped that we started with something a little more sensitive first and then scaled back once we saw that the numbers or capture rate was low.
“So, I think we have it in reverse and that has been a concern for us.
“So, I agree with you there that the rapid antigen test was a concern, still is a concern and we would like to see those numbers incorporated as well and see how effective it is being at actually capturing positive patients.”
On November 1, The Bahamas implemented a new testing regime for re-entry into the country that requires an RT-PCR COVID test no more than five days before the date of arrival, a health visa and a rapid antigen test five days after arrival in the country.
In mid-November, Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillian advised that health officials were moving to incorporate antigen testing in the country’s national protocol, though the RT-PCR test remained the gold standard for testing in The Bahamas.
It was revealed last month that data up to November 6, showed that 1,691 travelers entered The Bahamas.
However, only 752 travelers were compliant with the five-day testing protocol.
Among them, four tested positive — a Bahamian and three work permit holders.
When contacted recently, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Delon Brennen was unable to provide relevant data.
As of last week, antigen testing had yet to be incorporated into the COVID-19 dashboard.
Notwithstanding the concern, Bassett said there was hope with the United States and the United Kingdom — key destination markets for The Bahamas — beginning distribution of a vaccine on an emergency basis.
She said the development with the vaccine could lower imported cases and eventually once in-country will lower local transmission of the virus.
However, she stressed the need to continue to shore up health guidelines and adherence to them, as well as healthcare capacity.
Bassett said: “When we reopen our borders we would like to ensure that we have robust contact tracing to follow up on anybody who becomes positive.
“We want to ensure that the proper authority is doing all that it can to monitor and ensure that persons are following guidelines — wearing their masks, maintaining social distancing.
“It’s not happening in the stores as you go through the stores.
“That’s a concern for me. If we don’t get that right our numbers will go up again.”