The Falkland Islands' government this week confirmed that it will be a month before there is any review of current social distancing measures even if Covid-19 tests continue to return negative results.
Speaking at Q&A session on Wednesday, Chief Medical Officer Dr Rebecca Edwards said that there will need to be around two weeks of surveillance swabbing showing negative results before restrictions are reviewed.
Dr Edwards explained that while tests can already be carried out locally, more staff will require to undergo training before a full surveillance swabbing campaign can be rolled out. Dr Edwards said that surveillance swabbing is therefore unlikely to start before June 8, and any review of restrictions will be no earlier than two weeks after that.
Speaking at a public update on Wednesday, MLA Stacy Bragger confirmed that 19 tests have now been processed locally, all of which returned negative results.
A total of 445 tests have been carried out so far, and it is now a full month since the last positive result.
Lawmaker MLA Bragger said the capacity for local testing is likely to greatly reduce self-isolation times where patients test negative: “Having testing done locally means that people who are symptomatic with a flu-like illness, and who have been asked to isolate, will be able to be swabbed. Once the result is known, if it is not positive for COVID-19, and once the individual has been completely well for 24 hours, they will be free to return to work/school following discussion with and advice from a clinician at KEMH.”
“This also means that household members of symptomatic individuals (who are still expected to isolate alongside their unwell family/bubble member) will be able to be released back to work/ school as soon as a negative result is returned. “Dr Edwards said.
However, the capacity for carrying tests out locally will not result in a relaxation of quarantine requirements for individuals returning to the Islands or returning to Stanley from MPA.
Dr Edwards said that the incubation period of Covid-19, which can be as long as two weeks, means that someone who tests negative on arrival may still be carrying the disease, and therefore quarantine would ensure that the person does not pass it on to the community at large.
Asked whether the team from British Forces 16 Medical Regiment currently working at the KEMH could be redeployed elsewhere if there are no more cases of Covid-19, Dr Edwards said it was a possibility, but added that she was confident that if team was redeployed, and the Falklands were in a situation where they needed them again, the team would return.
FIG Chief Executive Barry Rowland also emphasized that the original agreement was that the team from 16 Medical Regiment would work with KEMH staff for a period of six months. (Penguin News)