Barbadians are being urged to keep faith in the Government’s COVID-19 surveillance system at the ports of entry, even as Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic revealed that the country’s first two imported cases would have undergone screening at the Grantley Adams International Airport.
In the first of daily press briefings, as part of stage one of Government’s mitigation plan to contain the virus, Bostic argued that the country’s ability to keep out the virus for as long as it did, is testimony to the strength of the screening measures. During his response to questions from the media at illaro Court this afternoon, Bostic made it clear that Government will be stepping up measures at the ports of entry.
“We escalate measures based on the risk and also the development of the virus across the globe. Yes, we had two cases confirmed, but up to yesterday, Barbados was one of 27 countries that had no confirmed cases. So I think that speaks to the level of surveillance that we have been utilizing at the airport. We have been escalating and will continue to escalate because we have a nimble response that would allow us to have the level of flexibility that would allow us to enhance our surveillance,” said Bostic.
However, the Minister acknowledged that screening at the airport was not foolproof, adding that Barbados’ capacity for widescale testing was limited by a global shortage of the COVID-19 test.
“Both persons were screened at our ports of entry but remember when persons are screened, their temperature is tested and they are looked at by the persons who are doing the surveillance. If persons show symptoms of COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms or they have high temperatures, then they are removed and investigated by a Port Health nurse. So if at the time of arrival you do not present with symptoms and you don’t have a temperature that would create an alarm, then at that point in time you are allowed to go through. However, if you develop symptoms when you get home or at the hotel, then is when we ask persons to report via the hotline,” he explained.
Bostic added, “Our emphasis has been on surveillance and enhanced surveillance because we believe that if we can detect it at the port of entry, it negates the need for testing at this time. The test kits are limited globally and we have to operate within the confines that we have. So we do selected testing based on the person’s travel history and when you present with symptoms and that is the policy that we have been following so far.”
Yesterday, Bostic, informed the nation of the two imported cases, a 48-year-old visitor and a 39-year-old national, both coming from the United States last Friday.
He revealed at the time, that the two persons were tested yesterday after presenting with viral symptoms, which prompted a response from the Ministry of Health’s team.
In the United States, where the virus is proliferating at a rapid rate, most medical experts agree that the country has been unable to get ahead of the disease simply because their testing does not allow them to know the full extent of the spread.
However, the Minister made it clear that the Mia Mottley administration was taking steps to quickly increase the country’s testing capacity.
“We tested 13 people yesterday and there are 11 people due to be tested today. Those persons who were tested today were all negative. In terms of the testing kits, we have increased our capacity with kits from PAHO [Pan American Health Organisation]. We have ordered another set of kits due to arrive on April 4, 2020 and there is another set due to arrive a few weeks after. So we will increase our capacity as the need arises,” he stressed. [email protected]