PCR tests only for persons who are hospitalised, in high-risk environments – Health Minister

The Ministry of Health announced Tuesday that it will only provide COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing for persons who have been hospitalised, and those who have been in environments susceptible to COVID-19 infection.

This was revealed Tuesday by Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony, M.P, during his daily COVID-19 update.

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony, MP

Dr Anthony explained that the ministry, however, will instead be offering rapid antigen tests to persons who have symptoms.

“With symptoms and doing the rapid test…the test results would generally be that you’re positive if you have COVID…so we want those persons with symptoms, they can do their rapid tests and we’ll determine their status,” he explained.

With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, persons have been flocking testing sites across the country, over the last few weeks. Dr Anthony stated, this was because persons were not observing the window period before testing.

“If you have been exposed, you can’t come right away to be tested…there’s a window period that you have to wait and most people are not observing that. So, what is happening, is people are coming and flocking to the site and when they get back their results, obviously it’s going to be negative because you are within that window period when the test is not going to work,” the minister highlighted.

According to the ministry’s most recent guidelines, an individual who has come into contact with a person infected with COVID-19 “should be placed on self-quarantine and testing done five days from the date he/she was in contact with the confirmed case.”

Dr Anthony reiterated that if persons properly observe these guidelines, there would no longer be large crowds gathered to be tested on a daily basis.

As a result, the minister disclosed that certain criteria must be met for persons to get a PCR test.

“The ministry is now going to do PCR only for people who are hospitalised or persons who would come to one of the A&E or outpatient clinics and the clinicians there decide that this person would need a PCR…or if somebody is working in a high-risk setting and requires a PCR, then we will do [that test],” he noted.

Recent studies have shown that rapid antigen tests have proven to be 78 per cent effective when confirming cases of COVID-19, and 98.7 per cent effective in ruling out infection in persons who did not have COVID-19.