The Inspectorate of Public Health of the Ministry VSA warns against the illegal practices of commercial rapid antigen Covid test sites and the sale of antigen Covid self-tests
Given the very steep increase in Covid-19 cases and the fact that the highly infectious Omicron variant is becoming the dominant strain on Sint Maarten, people resort to rapid self-testing.
Rapid antigen (Ag) self-testing has its advantages and disadvantages. The tests are cheap, an individual can easily apply the test and results are obtained in a few minutes. On the other hand, these tests are not as reliable as the rt-PCR test and large variation is seen in sensitivity and specificity between the large amounts of available tests. In particular also in the ability to detect Omicron. The sensitivity and specificity of a test will determine the risk for a false positive or false negative test result.
Notwithstanding the above, these self-tests have earned a place in combatting this pandemic by conducting preventive screening in specific settings e.g. hotel sector, large companies, schools, health care institutions.
The import and sale of personal medical diagnostics tests are regulated by law in Sint Maarten.
To guarantee the quality of self-tests made available to the public and the appropriate application and follow up during these demanding days the Inspectorate VSA has established a policy framework.
· Rapid Ag self-tests may only be imported and sold by pharmacies.
· Import is only possible for approved Ag self-tests with an import permit from the Inspectorate.
The approved rapid self-tests are now widely available to everyone at most pharmacies on the island for a price tag between $ 5.00 - 7.00. The pharmacies provide instructions on the use and can answer questions one may have. A positive self-test result means that quarantine measures are to be taken and that confirmation by an rt-PCR test performed by a lab is required. CPS does this free in a collaboration with a lab.
Commercial covid test services may only be performed by an established authorized lab, meaning that the testing is supervised by the lab, run by qualified staff and results in a lab report.
Travel covid testing requires an official lab report with the result and other data and is performed at test sites managed by the labs.
Preventive screening on the work floor and at schools as mentioned above happens under supervision of a lab or other qualified health care professional(s).