The prime minister’s recent announcement to start inter-island travel in the era of COVID-19 is needed, but the method chosen to do it is a source of concern even at a cursory glance.
The government proposes that those wishing to travel or return to the Family Islands have to register with the Ministry of Health and submit an evaluation by an approved physician to assess their risk for COVID-19 infection.
They may then be submitted to a physical exam and possible COVID-19 testing to further assess their risk. Sounds good on the surface, but from a purely rational standpoint, there are several issues that are glaring.
Firstly, anybody who breathes is at risk of getting this virus, which is spread by droplets from breathing or coughing; so, the natural inference is that every person who submits travel plans is a potential risk.
Secondly, for months now the health authorities have been telling us that the virus can be spread by a person with no symptoms, so, why subject persons to the cost of a physical exam that may reveal absolutely nothing?
Surely, if a person has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 they would not be considered for travel!
The absence of symptoms does not stop those in the early stages of infection from becoming more ill or testing positive after they have been cleared for travel.
It is now fairly well established that those who have had this infection do not get it again.
There were early reports out of South Korea that suggested this might be the case, but they found out weeks ago that with the swab tests for COVID-19, those who were already infected may have viral particles from destroyed virus that can cause them to have another positive test long after they have already cleared the infection.
This anomaly is what caused researchers to suspect that a person may get infected more than once.
Thus far, it is clear that there is not one case of a person having been infected twice. It also shows that the swab test is not ideal if used in those who may have been infected but were asymptomatic.
They will have false positive tests even though they cannot transmit the virus!
This brings me to the very last point. The government has yet to share the means it is using to make its decisions; decisions that at times have been more detrimental than helpful.
This lack of transparency is antidemocratic and quite unsettling.
One can only wonder why antibody testing is not an option in making policy decisions.
It is the only thing other nations are doing that we have yet to copy cat!
It seems far more sensible to use antibody testing to make these kinds of decisions, after all the level of medical care in the Family Islands is far less than in the capital and outcomes for the infected there may not be favorable.
Specific antibodies to this virus can distinguish with greater specificity than rolling dice, whether or not a person has been recently infected or if they are likely to have cleared the infection.
Common sense seems to suggest that an objective test should give far more reliable information than a questionnaire, an unnecessary exam and these other subjective methods that seem to be the health minister’s first choice.