Published On: Wed, Oct 28th, 2020

MP Sarah: Government at odds on COVID-19 testing

Government at odds on COVID-19 testingclaims to be awaiting the green light from RIVM.

Is Government really speaking with the business sector?

During the past week again Government’s lack of cohesion on a important matter was as glaring as a sunlit day”, commented Member of Parliament, Sarah A. Wescot-Williams on the public meeting regarding the financial and socio-economic outlook of Friday last.

While debating in the second round, MPs received  answers to questions in the first round via email from the Minister of VSA. Answers such as: “At present, all antigen tests are inferior to RT-PCR, from a diagnostic performance perspective. Use of antigen tests to conduct source and contact tracing among the community would result in more missed cases (false negatives), leading to higher burden of disease, higher number of hospitalized cases and possibly higher number of deaths. At this moment, the World Health Organization does not endorse the use of antigen tests for screening or mass testing. Sint Maarten has the capacity to continue to use RT-PCR to test the local population, and in accordance with international guidelines, will best serve the health of the population by continuing with this internationally recognized strategy”.

As per its own travel advisory currently in effect, the Government states “Other tests such as antibody tests or antigen tests and tests performed outside of this 120 hours period will not be accepted. On April 30, 2020, the Prime Minister had  announced that “Currently, labs in the Netherlands and Bonaire are carrying out antibody testing, which uses blood to determine whether persons have been infected. As a result of our interest in carrying out rapid testing, St. Maarten will soon be first Dutch Caribbean country to carry out these tests, thanks to the RIVM.”

In the same release, the Prime Minister also made reference to the supply of test kits coordinated by Member of Parliament and commented as follows: “The EOC also looks forward to assessing the test kits provided by United People’s (UP) party Member of Parliament Omar Ottley, which were donated by community-minded local businesspersons for use in the country to assist in minimising the spread of COVID-19”. Was that done?

Now we have the minister of VSA who responds to the motion passed on Friday regarding antigen testing at our ports, and states that the motion will spur him to do what he is already doing more urgently.

All of this begs the following questions:

Has the RIVM given the green light for the rapid antibody testing as announced in April of this year?

Has the Government subsequently employed antibody testing

What information has been derived from these antibody test results 

Has the EOC/CPS/RIVM  assessed the kits  donated by community-minded local businesspersons through Member of Parliament Ottley?

What was the result of this assessment? Have these kits been used? If so,what information has been derived from these antibody test results?

The Government or rather the NA/UP coalition should get its act together on the whole matter of testing, before engaging in a public debate about the types of tests, their usefulness and application etc.

It would appear that the Ministers are caught between the health and economic considerations, without a clear vision for moving forward. The Government must prudently  balance the economic interests versus the health of our country, in close collaboration with the French authorities, and must sooner rather than later take the necessary decisions. Going over to rapid antigen testing for incoming passengers, as the motion of Parliament recommends, requires swift adaptation. Can we adapt quickly? And can we take all the mitigating measures to protect the people of the country? Only the Government can answer these questions”, MP Wescot-Williams concluded.