Grenada and its neighbours have moved into a new phase of gradual reopening: The acceptance of repatriated nationals.
Throughout the month of May, cruise ships have been making regular calls at our Caribbean ports, bringing home stranded crew members who have been out at sea for the last several months, since the onslaught of Covid-19 around the world.
For receiving states, accepting repatriated citizens is a responsibility, even though borders are closed to everyone else.
For the Ministry of Health, our responsibility demands, as standard protocol, that all repatriated citizens must undergo testing at the border — even if we get repeated assurances from the cruise lines or returning nationals that they neither have, nor were they exposed to Covid-19.
We are cognisant that one of the surest ways to ascertain the spread of Covid-19 is to test, test, test. As such, the procurement of testing supplies has been one of our primary thrusts these last few months — testing supplies to ensure the protection of our citizens, and Personal Protective Equipment, to ensure the protection of our frontline workers.
As we gradually reopen, domestically and otherwise, those two categories of supplies become more and more critical. Our allowances for freedom of movement must not go beyond our capacity to test. Put another way, in the context of repatriation or border openings, the influx of people to our shores must not exceed our capacity to conduct tests on every individual who enters.
We operate on what the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, our own Timothy Antoine, posits as a basic economics assumption: Anyone can get Covid-19; therefore, we must assume that everyone has it.
Yes, we look forward to welcoming our brothers and sisters back at home, but we must not allow to go undetected, any possible Covid-19 positive case.
We are by no means naïve in believing that we will not continue to get positive cases, especially when we reopen borders, or even now, as we accept repatriated nationals. It is their right to come home, and it is our right and responsibility to test them to ensure we manage the virus.
How do we do that?
- We test on arrival
- We quarantine
- We catch and stop Covid-19 at our borders
The more efficient we are in doing that, the more capable we will be of preventing an unmanageable spread of the virus.
There are 2 types of tests that we conduct for Covid-19 as per world protocol: The antibody test (Rapid Test) and the viral test (PCR Test). It is instructive that we briefly explain the difference, in terms of purpose, results and effectiveness.
Antibody Rapid Test
The antibody Rapid Test tells if an individual has had a previous infection, or if he or she has been exposed to the virus.
A positive Rapid Test does not mean that the individual has the virus. It means that the individual was exposed to the virus at some point in the past.
An antibody test is used as a screening agent. It CANNOT CONFIRM that the virus still exists in the individual’s body, but it is a good indicator that a viral (PCR) test should be done for confirmation.
Conversely, a negative antibody test result does not mean that the individual is not infected with the virus. Only the viral test (PCR) can give such an assurance.
If an individual has reason to believe that he or she was exposed to the Covid-19 virus, then it is still advised to take the Rapid Test, to detect the antibodies. It is important to note also, that the antibody test does not help in the early detection of the virus, because antibodies can take a while to develop.
Viral PCR Test
The viral Polymerase Chain Reactor (PCR) Test is the ONLY CONFIRMING test for Covid-19. A positive result from a viral test means that the individual is infected with Covid-19 and should be immediately isolated until recovery, usually for at least 14 days after the test, so as not to transmit the virus to others.
What is the takeaway message here?
Whether an individual exhibits symptoms of Covid-19 or is asymptomatic, the following guidelines apply:
If you are exposed to the virus and you test positive for Covid-19 using a viral test, then you should immediately isolate and take measures to protect yourself and your loved ones.
If you test positive or negative for Covid-19, on either the antibody or the viral tests, it still means that you need to follow the health and safety guidelines to protect yourself and others.
In fact, even if you test positive for Covid-19 on the viral test, and you are ultimately medically cleared, do not assume that you are immune for contracting it again. There is yet no evidence that having antibodies of the virus means that you are protected against the virus.
No one is immune from Covid-19.
Anyone can get it. Anyone can spread it.
Practice proper hygiene. Wear your mask. Practice physical distancing of at least 6 feet.
Ministry of Health
NOW Grenada is not responsible for the opinions, statements or media content presented by contributors. In case of abuse, click here to report.