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"We should be much more inclined to test people for covid"

Wednesday 04 November 2020

"We should be much more inclined to test people for covid"


More islanders will be tested for covid even if they do not fit the “classic criteria”, it's been confirmed amid concerns some people were being turned away despite showing some symptoms.

The medic leading Jersey's response to the pandemic, Dr Ivan Muscat, said staff on the covid-19 helpline were being encouraged to refer “as many people as possible” for testing as part of the island’s winter strategy to contain the virus.

Announced on Monday, the strategy contains eight key actions aiming to avoid future island-wide restrictive measures, with lockdown being described as a “last resort."

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Pictured: The Government will be ramping up testing over the winter.

One of the key actions is to ramp up on-island testing. As Dr Muscat explained, this will not only include testing the local workforce – close to 40,000 islanders working in close contact with customers will be regularly tested for covid throughout the winter – but also more testing as a result of helpline referrals.

In response to questions from Express, he said that testing as many islanders as possible would help control the virus as the colder weather in the winter season brings new challenges.

“The people on  the helpline do follow the guidelines that we have provided them with but we accept that as we go into winter and as the frequency of symptomatic covid and covid as a whole goes up we should be much more inclined to test people for covid even if they do not fit the classical criteria completely,” the Deputy Medical Officer for Health explained.

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Pictured: Dr Muscat said that more people would be tested if they call the helpline even when they don't fit the classic criteria.

The current “classic criteria” for corona virus remain unchanged: a fever or history of fever, a new continuous cough or a change in taste or smell.

However, Dr Muscat said other features of viral infections such as headaches, muscle ache, feeling tired, fatigue, malaise and in some instances some gastrointestinal symptoms, particularly in children, should “all elicit a covid test."

“I think as we go forward, we need to increase covid testing as much as we can and that is in keeping with the philosophy of testing the workforce,” Dr Muscat said.

“We are testing the asymptomatic workforce in order to pick up covid before it becomes symptomatic in themselves and others, before it spreads to others so when symptomatic people do make themselves known to the helpline we should test them as well.”

Dr Muscat’s comments come after St. Lawrence Deputy Kirsten Morel reported the case of an islander who tested positive two weeks after first reporting symptoms to the helpline.

The Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, encouraged any islanders who feel they hadn’t received “the service they require” from the helpline to report it.

“My understanding is that with the people operating the helpline there is a discussion about the symptoms that they are exhibiting and if those symptoms point towards covid and the people manning the helpline will have guidance on that then they will be asked to take a test.

“We must remember that we’re coming into the winter period where colds are very common. So, it’s not guesswork on their part. They have procedures which Dr Muscat will have informed that will try and distinguish between covid and colds, for example.

“But please tell us if you learn of others who have subsequently contracted it and how we might improve things.”

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