A family that flew to Namibia for a relative’s funeral had their departure mired in uncertainty and confusion, with their Covid-19 tests taken only hours apart showing both negative and positive results.
Dirk Byleveld is now questioning the veracity of both Covid-19 PCR and antigen rapid tests.
The Bylevelds were barred from boarding the plane to return home as their results were positive and were told to wait for 10 days before they could fly, thus losing out on their money spent on the return tickets.
“My son and two grandsons took the PCR Covid-19 tests done before returning to South Africa and Egypt respectively. The tests came back positive but they showed no symptoms the entire time and before the test. We decided to go to the airport and that’s when they were not allowed to fly,” said the annoyed Dirk Byleveld.
Because they did not believe in the results they had received from the lab, they had another test (Rapid test) taken to find out about their Covid-19 status. This time around, grandfather Byleveld also took the test since he had been with them the entire time.
Namibia doesn’t accept Covid-19 antigen rapid test result certificates from visitors exiting or entering at Namibian ports of entry.
All tourists and locals entering Namibia are required to produce negative Covid-19 PCR test results on arrival. This test certificate must have been taken 72 hours before crossing the country’s borders.
The family was adamant about accepting the positive results and immediately opted to do a rapid test and within 24 hours, the results changed to negative so they took a PCR test the same day which resulted in different outcomes.
“My son was negative and grandsons positive. That’s when I decided that I will redo the tests. I was also enquiring how the rapid test might have shown no sign of the virus but the PCR did, all these different results were taken hours apart,” said the distressed and disappointed Byleveld.
Because of the uncertainty, panic and lack of trust in the results from the beginning, the family again approached a lab to verify the results but Byleveld’s son, which now had a negative result left for Egypt via South Africa.
“The following day, we went back to DiagnoLab and my grandsons were tested and their results came back negative after the third PCR test. I went to the previous lab consultant who did the second test and I showed him the negative results of the boys. He told me “even if your results are negative, you can still have Covid-19,” he added.
Byleveld said he spent close to N$25 000 on rapid and PCR tests, forfeiting flight tickets that couldn’t be used as there were complications with the results of the test and ultimately booking into accommodation for isolation before allowing his family to fly back. He also questioned the exorbitant prices of rapid and PCR tests at the different labs.
Health officials reached out to the family only to be told everyone has flown back to their respective destinations with negative results. The shocked health officials questioned why the family travelled while their records showed positive results. The frustrated family questioned how many vacationers have spent large amounts of money on PCR tests with false positive/negative results.
Medical scientist at DiagnoLab Brian Zuze said people must seek medical assistance when doing certain medical tests. He said antigen tests are not very sensitive tests as one cannot cross the border, only used when someone has symptoms and want to know their position.
He concurred with the need of the Byleveld to have rapid tests done after noticing they tested positive just to make sure since they were not sick or showing any symptoms but said that’s how Covid-19 acts sometimes.
“The tricky part with Covid-19 is that after 10 days you will be negative that’s why you must isolate for that period. You can also test positive even if you have recovered. With this pandemic, 70% of people don’t have symptoms,” he informed.
Zuze added: “PCR tests are very sensitive, it takes any residual virus which makes it also tricky. When you come to the lab, we don’t know your status, five days down the line, you can test negative.”
He said any testing should be done with medical guidance if one has symptoms, they should approach their doctor and a suitable test will be recommended. If exposed, an appropriate test, usually a PCR test will be conducted.