Public Health Ministry widens net to catch asymptomatic COVID-19 patients

Press Release

Ministry of Public Health

Georgetown, Guyana – Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Public Health Ministry has cast its net wider to catch symptomless patients but who are nevertheless carriers of the highly-infectious and deadly COVID-19 disease, Director of Regional and Clinical Services (RHS) Dr Kay Shako said.

Public health authorities disclose in a recent scientific conference estimate that as much of 40 percent of Guyanese COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic, meaning they have the disease, but are not showing any evidence of the illness.

“Since we have that high number of asymptomatic persons in our communities, we have expanded our screening to know all those persons who are COVID-19 positive,” Dr Shako said.

The rationale for broadening the groups of persons to be tested for the pandemic emerged out of growing concern that the previous guideline focused too narrowly on those who show physical signs and symptoms of the ailment and others who were in close physical proximity to them.

Contact tracing is the jargon used by public health specialists to tract those were physically close to COVID-19 positive patients.

By tuning out asymptomatic persons, the country ran the real danger of the deadly virus spreading rapidly nationwide.

To diversify the range of persons to be tested, PAHO/WHO Guyana Representative, Dr William Adu-Krow counselled MOPH officials to also set their sight on frontline health-care workers, persons with influenza-like conditions and those with pneumonia.

As a consequence, “our figures will definitely rise,” Shako said explaining one of the outcomes of the MOPH’s expanded vision.

To date, 825  persons have been tested for the virus with 97 declared positive.

Outside of Demerara/Mahaica (Region Four) the most populous of the 10 Administrative Regions comprising the 216,000 square kilometres multi-racial Cooperative Republic which includes the capital city, Georgetown, “percent readiness and preparedness” to combat COVID-19 is calculated at 87 percent fight, Shako said.

She said isolation and quarantine units in the outlying Regions are almost completed thus helping public health decision-makers to zero in more intently on the 21 elderly homes scattered around the country because the occupants are extremely vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, 15 of which are managed by the government.

Dr Melissa De Haarte, Coordinator of Elderly Health at the Public Health Ministry confirmed Saturday that there are currently no new admissions in elderly homes. “All homes are on lockdown…an elderly person needing to be admitted…must be screened and cleared before,” DeHaarte, who holds a MBBS and MPH -Gerontology, said.

The State is upgrading all 15 of the 21 elderly homes under its care in the COVID-19 fight Dr Shako said. She said the remaining six NGO-operated homes will be closely monitored to ensure compliance with newly-establish protocols to help stem the spread of the mutating virus.

In addition, the Public Health Ministry is also paying special attention to pregnant women throughout the country and is putting special facilities in place to cater for them. This move has enabled one COVID-19 positive mother to be begin receiving treatment, Dr Shako said.

She said Regional authorities in Mahaica/Berbice (Region Five) and East Berbice/Corentyne (Region Six) have established check points at strategic locations to ensure all persons entering those areas are screened to help prevent any infected person spreading the disease in those two predominantly agricultural areas, Shako explained.

Since the broader net has been cast, three persons were sent to the New Amsterdam Hospital “for further evaluation,” the RHS Director disclosed.

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Coronavirus disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. We urge citizens to practice good hygiene and social or physical distancing also adhere to the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health, Guyana.