The first batch of lateral flow tests, which are expected to be used initially for screening of those in isolation due to a COVID-19 outbreak in schools, will arrive in Cayman on the BA flight Monday.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee confirmed the pending delivery Saturday at the Cayman Health Conference at the Kimpton Seafire Resort as he spoke on a panel discussing the topic “COVID & Vaccines: Past, Present and the Way Forward”.
Lee said government is developing a plan for the use of the tests, and they aim to have them widely used in the community to control the spread of the virus.
“We will hopefully flood the country with them so that you can use them whenever you want. Whenever you’re going to see somebody that’s vulnerable, whenever you’re going to do something, which you think is a slightly at risk thing, or if you don’t want to put people at risk you will be able to do a lateral flow test,” he said.
Lee did not disclose how many tests are arriving in the first batch, but he said there will be regular shipments.
Asked whether the tests were effective, Lee said it depends on the state of infectivity that an individual has when tested.
“They’re somewhere between 50% and 80% as effective as PCR, sometimes a little bit higher than that. But they’re far, far better than no knowledge at all. They’re much better at picking up infections where there is a high viral count, and they’re also better when you use them sequentially,” he said.
During his time on the panel, Lee also demonstrated the use of a test, and shared his negative test result with the audience.
Tests part of monitoring the spread
He suggested that the tests, when they become available, can also be used within a company to reduce work time losses.
“In organizations and institutions, you be able to do them on a daily basis. If there’s somebody in that particular environment that you know has been infected, and then if you feel that the infection rate has dropped in your particular environment, then you’ll be able to reduce [testing] probably to twice weekly, maybe even to once weekly, but I suspect we’ll probably stay at twice weekly,” he said.
Lee said the tests are a question of continual monitoring “in order that we can early identify anybody that’s going… might cause a problem, they can come out of the scenario and then let everybody continue with their lives”.
How will monitoring tests work
Lee said the formal plan for the use of the tests and the reporting of results is still being finalised, but he said every positive test will have to be reported to Public Health.
Sars-COV2, he said, is a notifiable disease in Cayman, and as such it is a legal requirement for anybody, whether you are an ordinary resident or whether you are a health care provider, to report these positives to the Medical Officer of Health.
“What we hope to do is if somebody is positive they would ring up the flu hotline or contact their healthcare professional and we will arrange for them to have a PCR test to check the result and then we’ll give them further advice about isolating, that’s how it will work,” he said.
Initially, all negatives will not be recorded because they will be in the thousands, “but naturally we would anticipate that any organization that is conducting an organizational test, such as a school or an employer, that they would keep a record of the negatives because they want to check that it’s being done”, the CMO said.
Speaking on the ongoing booster shot programme, Lee said that while the boosters are open to certain at-risk categories initially, healthcare providers are able to come forward for their jab because of the demands of their jobs. Boosters for those 70 and over
“[They] are able to come to get their boosters at any time during the programme whilst it’s running. We’re not holding them for any particular time if you can have time from your work, you can attend to get the booster,” he said.