Pineridge MP laments govt. discouragement of antigen testing for Bahamians
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine suggested yesterday the government continues to show disdain for Bahamians as he called for clarity over its position on antigen testing.
McAlpine noted Minister of Health Renward Wells discouraged public-private partnerships for rapid antigen testing at a recent press conference when the same test is part of the government’s testing regime for travelers to The Bahamas.
“You are discouraging it for Bahamians, but five days later (after traveling to The Bahamas) this is the same test you want tourists to take,” McAlpine told Eyewitness News.
“So, if it is good for the tourists, why is it not good for Bahamians?
“Our government continues to show an attitude of being friendlier to foreigners than it is to Bahamians.
“So, this test is no good for Bahamians, but it is quite well for foreigners to take?”
As part of the new travel regime, entry into The Bahamas as of November 1 requires a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test; a health visa, inclusive of COVID insurance; and a follow-up rapid antigen test on the fifth day after arrival.
The official opposition has long called for expanded and free testing.
Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper will provide free rapid antigen testing on Exuma this week.
Di-ara Comprehensive Medical Center, which is involved in the government’s travel testing regime, will handle the test results to ensure confidentiality and health protocols.
During a Ministry of Health press conference last Friday, Wells was asked about the government expanding its testing regime to include similar public-private partnerships to embark on antigen testing.
In response, the minister said the government will adhere to its strict and laid-out protocols and testing guidelines.
He said: “We would like to discourage anyone just simply going out, purchasing any sort of COVID-19 test and then testing themselves, or organizations or institutions doing so without being a part of the overall testing apparatus and without the additional requirement for the reporting lines of communication that are necessary.”
Health officials have advised that antigen testing is being incorporated in The Bahamas’ national protocol, but said the RT-PCR COVID test remains the gold standard.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan said the Ministry of Health invited all entities seeking to perform antigen testing to register with the government so testing of symptomatic individuals is reported and contact tracing occurs.
Another parliamentarian, who did not wish to comment on the record, also questioned the government’s testing protocol and the methodology concerning antigen testing, which has over 80 percent sensitivity to the virus.
McAlpine continued: “Something is wrong with that. It is just antiquated and dated. It is just not well-thought-out. Now, I can hear you trying to tell us as the citizenry, that with those coming in that you are trying to protect the citizenry. But you seem more concerned about protecting those coming in than us, who are here…
“Government, again, there is a lot to be desired in the manner in which they seek to help their people.
“You don’t want us traveling, but you want the world traveling to us.
“You do not think that we can be responsible even if you got to say it every day, but don’t lock us up like prisoners; don’t treat us like little children, saying ‘if you behave you might have a good Christmas’ because if I have a good economy, I’ll have a damn good Christmas.
“I have to think about having a good economy to even think about having a good Christmas.”
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said if COVID-19 infections continue to trend downward “maybe we could have a good Christmas moving forward”.
Minnis said the objective is not only to have the tourism sector running and individuals re-employed but to also move toward Christmas, which is “one of the greatest family unification during the particular time”.