Private coronavirus testing could cause ‘fear and confusion’, government warns

JERSEY’S first Covid-19 private testing facility is due to open this week – but the government has raised concerns that its use could cause ‘fear and confusion’ among Islanders.

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And official UK guidance published this week is advising against the use of such tests.

The Jersey facility is being run by Orchid Care Services, which has operated homecare services in Jersey since 2014.

Tamba Park owner Jonathan Ruff is also a partner in the project, and the tests are being carried out in the car park of the former family activity centre.

Tests, which are available from Friday and are booked online, cost £74.99 for an adult, £37.50 for a child and £50 for over 65s and critical workers. The facility is being run as a drive-through, with people staying in their cars for the tests, which produce results in ten minutes.

The Government of Jersey, however, has said it is investigating the claims made by the organisation about the tests and has urged people to be ‘extremely cautious’ about using the facility.

The Onsite Covid-19 IgG/ IgM Rapid Tests being used have been supplied by Californian company CTK Biotech and use a pinprick blood test to detect antibodies.

The presence of IgM antibodies demonstrates if someone is in the acute stages of the virus and is currently contagious. The presence of IgG antibodies means someone has been exposed to Covid-19 and may have immunity.

The tests, which have been approved by the Australian government for use in the country, are not sensitive enough to always detect antibodies, particularly if someone is in the early stages of infection.

James Ahier, managing director at Orchid Care Services, said the company had decided to set up the facility after researching testing capabilities for its own staff and clients.

It now has thousands of tests in the Island ready to be used and more available to it should they be required.

He said: ‘We spent a lot of time researching tests and spoke with a number of other care organisations who were expressing an interest in getting staff and clients tested. We have the first 5,000 tests in Jersey now and we have got more available in the UK for us.

‘We are very confident with the tests we have.’

He added: ‘We have tried to keep the prices as affordable as possible and this is by no means a get rich quick scheme or anything like that. Ultimately we are a care business, this is what we do. And we really believe this will help the Island and there are many people it is going to help who have got anxiety about the virus and would like to get tested for their own peace of mind. So this service is there for them as well.’

Mr Ahier added that the company would be willing to share its data with the government.

The Government of Jersey, however, has said it would be unlikely to accept data from the project.

A spokesperson said: ‘This is not in collaboration with the government. We urge Islanders to be extremely cautious before giving their blood in a setting that we cannot verify meets clinical standards for care.

‘We are also currently investigating the claims of the organisers in offering these private antibody tests in Jersey.

‘Any testing needs to be undertaken in the right setting, with the right laboratories behind them, in order to give the right results. Without these controls and without the right scientists leading a testing programme, this will only increase fear and confusion among Islanders.’

The government’s own antibody testing programme, which was offered to a small number of randomly selected households and is ongoing, showed that around 3,300 people in Jersey are likely to have been exposed to Covid-19.

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