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President of the Pharmacy Board Andrew Rahaman

Implementing COVID-19 home test kits will, undoubtedly, make it easier and faster for the population to determine if they are infected. However, concerns are that the move will allow for an under-reporting of cases, inappropriate use by the public and a lack of official oversight to ensure people isolate themselves when positive.

However, the Pharmacy Board president Andrew Rahaman believes members of his fraternity can serve as a middle ground.

“It might well be a good idea for it to be administered by the pharmacist so that at least we can take the responsibility to report it,” he told Guardian Media.

“I think a lot of people trust the pharmacy, more than hospitals to go and purchase the test and also have it done.”

With proper training, he said, this can also reduce the risk of any false negative results which would occur if someone improperly uses the kit.

“The test, no matter how effective, is as good as the sample that is used,” he said.

While the Medical Association’s public relations officer, Dr Keegan Bhaggan, agreed this will remedy the issue of under-reported cases, it may also defeat the advantage of a home test kit.

“There are different challenges we’re trying to overcome (with these kits). Yes definitely having the test kit be run at a pharmacy or essentially a reputable place, then that helps overcome the challenge of reporting but then on the flipside, it may not actually accomplish the issue of a home kit in the sense of being able to capture. Because now it becomes little difference between having to go to a pharmacy to do an antigen kit versus going to a doctor to do an antigen kit of going to a private lab to do an antigen kit compared to doing it at home,” he said.

This, he said, will need to be balanced in any policy the Ministry of Health puts in place. It is an offence under the public health regulations (regulation 13) not to report a test result, regardless of the type used.

“Where a private medical laboratory, medical practitioner or a person fails to report and forward results to the Chief Medical Officer and the Regional Health Authority in accordance with sub-regulation (1), the owner or operator of the private medical laboratory, medical practitioner or the person, as the case may be, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $250,000 and to imprisonment for six months,” it said.

Despite these challenges, Rahaman believes the benefits of a home test kit are far greater.

On Monday, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the door was open to using home test COVID-19 kits in this country.