Thu | Feb 25, 2021

Lukewarm response to COVID-19 testing in Yallahs

Published:Monday | January 18, 2021 | 12:14 AMShanna Kaye Monteith /Gleaner Writer
Dr M Wilder does a COVID-19 test on Livinston Johnson in Yallahs St Thomas on Saturday January 16,  as part of the Health Departments effort to provide free testing. The exercise was met with a lukewarm response with many residents choosing not to be teste
Dr M Wilder does a COVID-19 test on Livinston Johnson in Yallahs St Thomas on Saturday January 16, as part of the Health Departments effort to provide free testing. The exercise was met with a lukewarm response with many residents choosing not to be tested.

A two-day free COVID-19 testing activity organised by the St Thomas Health Department in Yallahs last week was met with indifference by most residents.

Dubbed as the COVID-19 Community Surveillance, health officials said the screening activities aimed at identifying positive cases and stemming the increase of the virus in the parish.

Up until last Saturday morning, St Thomas reportedly had 26 active cases.

Speaking with The Gleaner, health education and promotion officer Audrey Dawson-Minott shared that there was a relatively low turnout of residents to be tested across both days.

“On day one, we had a little over 30 people coming out, and today (Saturday), we have a little over 15 so far, and we close in few hours. More people should have turned out, but the response we’ve been getting is that they’re not doing the test because ‘COVID is a white people thing and no COVID nuh deh here’. These are some of the things we’ve been hearing as it relates to persons coming out,” Dawson-Minott said, adding that community health aides had been visiting surrounding areas to sensitise residents about the virus and to invite them to come and get tested for free.

She noted that the initiative of the St Thomas Health Department is to be enforced in other communities in the parish over the next few weeks.

SITTING IDLE

When The Gleaner visited the Container Plaza in the usually busy Yallahs Square, where the screenings were being done, the sight of health workers sitting idly and residents going about their business testified to the community’s lack of interest in the activity.

“Mi good man. I don’t drink tea bag and chocolate tea. A just pure bush - medina, soursop leaf, raw moon, cerasi, perilla, dandelion. A dem old-time things deh mi drink, so mi sure I don’t have it (the virus),” said Kevin Hutchinson, a mechanical engineer in the area who shared that he had no intention of being tested.

According to him, “Mi sure I don’t have it because where the bush teas fall short, the white rum and grease keep the COVID from me, so even if it in the atmosphere a blow, it cyah catch me … . As it touch the slippery grease, it run off.”

Yvonne Lindo, operator of a fruit stall just yards away from where the Ministry of Health’s mobile testing bus was parked, also shared that she would not utilise its services despite them being free and convenient. However, she rubbished the claims of her fellow community members who believe that the virus is not real.

“It serious and is for everybody, but I am scared. To how mi see it on the TV how dem push the something down yu throat and nose, I’m just scared. Plus, I know I’m not infected because I’m not showing any symptoms. Is only when mi come out here to sell I’m on the road, otherwise I stay in my house,” she said.

In addition to fear and scepticism, Yallahs residents blamed the low turnout on what they described as the lack of proper promotion of the activity by the health department.

One of the few residents who turned up to get tested shared that he had just gone in from work when someone shared news of the activities with him.

“So I just get mi wife same time and we come back out here to get tested to see what a gwaan. We can’t just sit down and say it’s not real like others because people are dying by it, so we come test so that the same thing doesn’t happen to us. Better we safe than sorry,” he said.