May 09, 2022
A LOCAL infectious disease expert said 65 percent of the new COVID-19 cases in the last epidemiological week were transmitted locally.
Ministry of Health and Wellness’ National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme director Dr Nikkiah Forbes explained yesterday that officials look at these things from week to week.
Her comments came as Free National Movement Chairman and former Health Minister Dr Duane Sands last week raised concerns about the recent uptick of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, insisting the true number of infections could be higher.
He claimed that this is due to “a substantial number” of unreported positive rapid antigen tests.
Dr Forbes acknowledged that officials have noticed an uptick in the average number of cases that are being diagnosed.
Asked if the country is facing a surge, Dr Forbes answered: “We have to monitor the situation because certainly COVID and what’s happening in the global space and at home here (is) changing.
“So, we know that there are emerging variants certainly. We have these omicron and omicron sub-variants that we know that are even more infectious.
“And so, we do have to watch that and we do have to be mindful as we see surges in other locations that we need to consider that this uptick might result in one but what we do now makes a difference. How we, for example, adhere to recommendations but we are monitoring it. There has been a slight increase over a number of weeks now.
“The majority of cases are actually local transmission. They’re not mainly travel related. There are some travel related cases.”
“When looked in the last epidemiological week, it was 65 percent,” she said when asked about the percentage of local transmissions.
“When you consider that, remember that these things can vary. We look at these things from week to week. Then again, the percentage of positive from whichever various sources that also varies.”
As for Dr Sands’ claims regarding antigen tests, Dr Forbes said the dashboard only reflects PCR positive cases and that’s always been the case from the beginning of reporting of the COVID situation in the country.
But surveillance information that officials monitor is fully inclusive of all of the tests that are mandatorily reported into the ministry - whether PCR or rapid antigen.
“The dashboard does not include rapid antigen testing, but certainly the Ministry of Health does monitor the COVID-19 situation in new cases per day, average number cases per week, deaths, hospitalisations and we look at PCR and rapid antigen tests and that has been something that is and has been reported into the Ministry of Health.
“From the beginning of the pandemic and from when antigen tests were made available, all labs are mandated to report on that. So, to answer the first part your question, yes, we do see that there is an uptick in the number of cases, the average number of cases that are being diagnosed,” she explained
The FNM chairman said it is now time for the government to consider including positive results of antigen tests in the nation’s daily dashboard to provide Bahamians with an accurate picture of the nation’s true COVID state.
Probed on the possibility of adding the antigen test, she pointed to what would need to be done.
“In the beginning of the pandemic, PCR (was) what was widely available and there has to be a consensus upon on what is reported and then would need to be adjusted back overtime to prevent, for example, if we were to report antigen test now there would be change in the way that it is being reported and so it certainly could be reported,” Dr Forbes said.
“We have discussed in many (spaces) and certainly it could appear in the dashboard as additional information but the context of that would not be that all of a sudden cases suddenly increase it would just mean that the definition of what is reported has changed.”
Asked whether not reflected antigen test results on the daily dashboard is a true reflection of the current situation, she said: “The answer no, but it’s a little more complicated than that. First of all, the cases on the dashboard are always lower than the actual true number of cases in the country because one it does not include the rapid antigen test and second of all there are persons who do not come forward for testing. They may have mild symptoms … they may not present for testing.
“The rapid antigen test is not just the test for symptomatic people will seek. It’s also a test, for example, for travel or for screening after say an exposure and so there could be a large number of antigen tests that are done for example, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those tests were done for screening of people with symptoms.
“As a matter of fact, when I’m looking at the dashboard from the latest period as it relates COVID-19 this last epidemiological week, the rapid antigen the percentage of the number of tests that are positive is actually a little lower than the (weeks) before,” she said.
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News date : 05/09/2022
Category : Covid-19, Health, Tribune Stories