Kaieteur News – Testing done early and on a mass scale can make a difference in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. It can also reduce and eventually eliminate deaths all together.
Do you know that St. Vincent, Grenada and St. Lucia have only a small number of coronavirus cases and no deaths? St Vincent has 65 cases, only one of which is active. It has zero deaths. And its secret is that despite having a small number of cases, it has a testing rate of 52,169 per one million of its population.
Grenada has 25 cases of which only one is active. It has zero deaths. Its testing rate is 55,486 tests per every one million of the population.
St Lucia has 32 cases, five of which are active. It has recorded zero deaths. Its testing rate is 49,093 tests per every one million of the population.
The secret of these countries success in containing the pandemic is their testing rate. They have kept their case load low and manageable and have not had any deaths because they began testing early and they did a large number of tests.
Guyana’s biggest mistake was its low rate of testing in the early stages of the pandemic. Testing rates remained low during the first four months following the discovery of its first case. Mass testing, however, could not be rolled out because the lack of a legitimate government which prevented it from seeking international help in obtaining testing kits. A few thousand testing kits were on hand as at August.
Since August testing has increased. But Guyana’s testing rate – that is the number of tests per one million of the population – stands at 21,025. This is less than half the rate of three Eastern Caribbean states which are free of COVID deaths and have single digit number of active cases.
Guyana therefore needs to urgently increase its testing rate. It needs to quickly triple the number of tests which it has done so far. As at Friday last, Guyana had done only 16, 561 tests. It needs to move closer to around 50,000 tests and to do so quickly.
Friday’s positivity rate was frightening. The country only did 110 tests on Friday even though its testing capacity is around 300. Of these 110 tests, there were 52 positive cases, a positivity rate of 47.3% or almost double the overall national rate.
The total undiagnosed cases can be as much as 10 times the number of diagnosed cases. This would mean that there can be as many as 30,000 undiagnosed coronavirus cases. This may also explain why Guyana’s deaths are so high.
As at Friday, Guyana had recorded a total of 109 deaths from 3,672 cases. This appears high when compared with Jamaica, Trinidad and Suriname, all three of which have had a dramatic surge in deaths and cases since the reopening of their economies.
Trinidad and Tobago has 5,248 cases with 95 deaths…Jamaica has more than double the number of cases of Guyana. They have recorded 8,132 positive cases and 162 deaths. Suriname has the same number of deaths as Guyana, 109, but they have a far larger case load of 5,113.
All four countries – Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Suriname – however have a common denominator. Their testing rate is very low relative to those countries in the Eastern Caribbean which have zero deaths. The testing rate of Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Suriname are 21,035; 23,569; 29,454 and 28,459 respectively.
It appears from these numbers that there can be a relationship between testing levels and the number of cases and deaths. This is why this column has been consistently calling for the problems with Guyana’s testing capacity to be addressed. The excuses are just too many and have been made for far too long. Mass testing needs to be implemented and done so early.
Guyana’s death rate may appear high. After all, Suriname has the same number of deaths but has far more cases. Given the limited number of institutional deaths in Guyana, an explanation is needed as to why there are so many deaths.
However, it may not be that Guyana’s death rate is excessively high. It may be that the number of confirmed cases is not representative of the scale of local infections. There may be as many as 30,000 additional positive cases locally and these persons do not know that they are positive.
Who knows, one of those persons may be standing or sitting next to you right now! Stay safe. Wear a mask, reduce non-essential travel and keep away from government’s super-spreader events.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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