Covid testing centre opens

A NEW Covid-19 testing facility opened on Friday following trials earlier this week.

The company behind the venture, Orchid Care Services, says the trials were successful, with three people out of 21 tested showing evidence that they had had coronavirus.

Those who have had the disease develop antibodies against the virus, potentially offering a degree of immunity. However, the level of immunity ­– and for how long it lasts – is still unclear.

The company has also defended the initiative in the face of doubts expressed by the government and criticism on social media.

In a statement, Orchid Care Services said that the three tests showed traces of IgG, an antibody which suggested a previous infection by the virus. One of these people had previously been confirmed as having had Covid-19, while the others had no prior knowledge of contracting the virus.

Testing is done via a pinprick to take blood from the finger at a drive-in centre on the former Tamba Park site at a cost of £74.99 for adults, £37.50 for children and £50 for over-65s and critical workers.

Managing director James Ahier said: ‘We are delighted with how smoothly the pilot testing went. Our staff are following strict safety procedures to help prevent cross-contamination, including being fully equipped with all the appropriate PPE, with decontamination procedures in place in the event of a positive result.’

In relation to suggestions of ‘profiteering’ on social media, the company responded in a Facebook post, saying: ‘Granted we are a care business – if we have a large take-up, Orchid Care Services may make a profit, but there is also the chance we will make a loss. There are many costs, and if any money is made, it will not be significant in comparison to the risks involved in such a venture.’

The initiative was criticised by the Government of Jersey, with Islanders being urged to be ‘extremely cautious’ before giving blood in a setting that may not meet clinical standards for care.

‘Any testing needs to be undertaken in the right setting, with the right laboratories behind them, in order to give the right results,’ a government spokesman said. ‘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 may have contracted Covid-19.

Orchid said the testing process would give comfort to those shown to have developed antibodies, while those receiving negative results would be in no better or worse a position than before the test.

The company’s statement added: ‘There are a lot of people that have had symptoms who would like to find out if these were Covid-19 symptoms or just another bug – this is one way they can find out.’

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