Terrence Deyalsingh

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh

OVER-THE-COUNTER home testing kits for Covid-19 have entered the local pharmaceutical market, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh confirmed yesterday.

The minister was responding to question during the Ministry of Health’s virtual news conference on Covid-19, as to whether antigen testing kits for use in the home had been licensed for sale in Trinidad and Tobago, based on reports they were being retailed by some pharmacies.

Deyalsingh, about a fortnight ago, said the Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division of the Ministry of Health was ready to receive applications from local interests seeking to import and distribute the home kits.

He had said the process was a simple one, and companies were invited to apply, while providing details including certification that the product had been registered in its country of manufacture.

Deyalsingh yesterday noted his previous remarks, and said the Division has already approved some kits for sale.

“The process for registering antigen tests is a simple one, that can be done in a matter of days. My information is that Chemistry, Food and Drugs has, in fact, approved rapid antigen tests maybe a week or two ago. So, it is legal for sale,” he said.

Most home testing kits are regarded as being able to provide a reliable indication of Covid-19 infection, once used correctly and during the recommended periods.

The kits are encouraged for use among symptomatic people, but worsening illness still calls for the attention of a medical professional.

PCR follow-up

While all Covid-19 tests are accompanied by a margin of error, a symptomatic or any person with a positive home antigen test (called lateral flow tests, in some countries) must seek medical advice and follow up with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within the recommended time.

If a home test is negative but a person is symptomatic, a follow-up PCR test is ­advised.

Deyalsingh said home testing kits offer the advantage of affordability and convenience. However, PCR tests remain “the gold standard” for detecting Covid-19.

He said a drawback of the antigen test is its margin of false negatives, and there is a “sacrifice” of some accuracy. Therefore, it must be followed up with a PCR test.

Technical Director, Epidemiology Division, Dr Avery Hinds emphasised the proper use of rapid antigen tests, saying they “perform better in those who are symptomatic, in giving an indication as to what could be going on with an ­individual at a given time”.

Hinds stated that “if you are symptomatic and have a rapid antigen test and the result is negative, it doesn’t mean you should ignore the possibility of Covid and go about your business. You should still go on to have some confirmatory results with the PCR, so that you can be guided accordingly

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