The Health Ministry’s Collective Prevention Services (CPS) believes that residents with symptoms associated with the coronavirus COVID-19 are underreporting their statuses due to fears of repercussions, Prime Minister and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Chairperson Silveria Jacobs said on Thursday evening.
While the CPS-led team of trained medical professionals and community persons surpassed their daily target during their community outreach programme in Cay Hill on Wednesday by visiting 109 homes, representing 290 residents, only one person was found to have symptoms. The team’s daily target was to visit 100 homes.
Jacobs updated on the figures during a national address last night. She had said during a parliament meeting on Wednesday that authorities had decided to go more into the community for outreach and testing after it became clear that persons had been visiting St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) at a late stage when the hospital could “only keep them comfortable” and not do much for them medically as the infection had “gone too far.”
She alluded to a certain demographic of the population where cases were realised, noting that in particular persons from the Haitian and Dominican Republic communities were not reporting their illnesses to authorities.
A concern she expressed at the time was the reluctance of persons to go out and get tested during the community outreach in Sucker Garden on Tuesday.
She explained that when CPS went into the area around The Keys in Sucker Garden on Tuesday, at the start of the community outreach programme, of the 85 persons to whom CPS managed to speak, it had been determined that 17 persons in six homes had been exhibiting symptoms. However, only one of the 17 persons visited the mobile unit parked in the area to be tested. The others did not and she said this was below what was expected.
“Because some persons choose not to be tested, CPS will return to the districts to make sure that they cover as much as possible and those symptomatic are asked to be tested as soon as possible,” Jacobs said during her national address on Thursday evening.
Due to the outreach programme the COVID-19 numbers can be expected to go up. The CPS team has also begun testing persons who are in self-isolation (exhibiting symptoms). As of 4:00pm on Thursday there were 84 persons in self-isolation.
The CPS team will be in the Cay Bay area today, Friday, and tomorrow, Saturday. The team will be going into areas on days the public will be home (non-shopping days). However, it will visit areas on prior days to alert residents to its visit ahead of time.
“CPS fears that the low numbers of symptomatic persons being found is due to underreporting, as persons fear that they might have negative repercussions,” Jacobs said.
She stressed that the outreach is to ensure that as many persons as possible can get necessary care and not allow them to end up in the hospital with severe symptoms. The earlier persons are tested, the earlier the virus can be detected and persons can be treated, particularly those with underlying conditions.
“Daily more persons are going into the hospital who were not in isolation and this continues to be a risk for the entire community, and by educating yourself and understanding how the virus works and by knowing your status you will be able to get positive results. It does not matter what your status is; everyone has the right to be tested and get treatment,” she said.
Jacobs had said earlier this week that anyone, irrespective of their legal status, age, gender or nationality, can and will be tested. As this is a public health crisis, government is footing the bill to test persons. Also, persons who come forward for testing will not be targeted for expulsion from the island after the country recovers from the pandemic, Jacobs assured.
The Daily Herald.