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Caroni East MP Dr Rishad Seecharan

The United National Congress (UNC) is calling on the Minister of Health to allow pharmacies to sell over-the-counter COVID-19 testing kits, in an effort to ease what the party is calling an overburdened and overworked healthcare system.

On Wednesday, during the Health Ministry’s media conference, Minister Terrence Deyalsingh sought to discourage use of the kits and even mentioned the possibility of taking to the courts, a pharmacy that has been selling the over-the-counter COVID test kits.

But yesterday, the UNC’s shadow Minister of Health, Dr Rishad Seecharan, said the testing kits should be encouraged in light of what the virus is doing to the country.

“Since the 15th of December, 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration issued emergency-use authorisation for over-the-counter COVID-19 tests in all major pharmacy chains in America. These include the Ellume home test, the Abbot antigen self-test and the Pixle home collection kit, they do not require prescription and they are intended to use in persons with or without symptoms. This can be conducted at their own home. Why would you be against that?”

Seecharan questioned if there is a more sinister motive behind the Government’s stance on the testing kits.

“How can you be so small-minded? What it seems to me is that you are actually asking people not to get tested for COVID-19. Is this a means to reduce the ability of citizens to determine their COVID-19 status?

“With hundreds of cases daily and the death toll rising, the numbers do not paint a pretty picture for you and your administration.”

Seecharan said the Health Minister’s worry that people would use these tests and then skip the public health system, therefore, evading national health protocols, is misguided.

The Caroni East MP anticipates the opposite outcome.

He said asymptomatic people who test positive on the home kit would then seek an official test from a certified lab.

Seecharan said if people had this facility available to them earlier, the recent spike in cases following the Easter holidays would have not happened.

Guardian Media attempted to reach out to Deyalsingh but up to press time he did not reply.