With 2,800 swabs and 27,000 testing kits now available, Barbados will be ramping up testing for COVID-19, Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic declared today.
He sought to give the assurance that although there have been no new positive tests for COVID-19 in the last five days, Government is not letting up in its fight against the deadly virus that has so far claimed about 170,000 lives globally, as the retired soldier repeated his mantra: “no retreat, no surrender”.
He said even though there had been a decrease in the number of people testing positive, the authorities will be testing more people daily.
So far, the nation’s public health laboratory has conducted 1,063 tests – merely 0.37 per cent of the total estimated population of 287,375 – with five deaths from 75 positive tests.
He admitted that a previous shortage of swabs had been rectified.
As of midday today, Government had secured 2,800 swabs which “significantly increases our capacity to escalate testing across the country”, the Health Minister said.
Additionally, he disclosed the number of available testing kits had increased from 500 to 27,000.
Lt. Col. Bostic told journalists: “Although there have been a reduction in the number of persons being tested and yes, we have had some challenges with the availability of swabs, we were still testing persons, approximately 32, 33, for the past four or five days.
“I also indicated yesterday that one of the things we would like to do and as quickly as possible, is to be able to escalate the amount of testing that we are doing, but we were hampered by the inadequate number of swabs that we had available to do the tests. But testing has been going on and the only reason why the numbers have been reduced is because we were not having the numbers presenting with symptoms as we were having before.
“The Ministry of Health and Wellness intends to widen the scope of testing…. We will do so because we want to be absolutely certain that there is no community transmission in this country even though at this stage we have seen no evidence to suggest this. But out of the abundance of caution that is the direction that we want to be able to go.”
The Minister said there had also been a significant reduction in the number of people arriving at the Paragon testing facility as well as in those being referred from private medical facilities.
He did not give details, but said testing criteria would be revised. He said the Emergency Operation Centre would be responsible for distributing that information.
“Ever since we started testing we have had to manage the resources that were available to us. We would have started several weeks ago with about 500 tests available to the laboratory. As a result of that we’ve had to be very, very, careful in terms of how we utilized those tests and we established some fairly rigid criteria for persons who would qualify for a test,” the Minister acknowledged.
Bostic said while the recent results were promising, now was not the time to relax.
He said a further four people had been released from isolation today after returning negative tests, bringing the number of recoveries to 23.
The Minister said 47 remained in isolation, with only one person being ventilated.
He encouraged Barbadians to continue to maintain best practices.
Bostic said. “I want to reiterate that although this is indeed very encouraging for all of us it is not a sign that we are out of the woods. We must not drop our guard. We must not drop the level of defense that we are putting up against this enemy.
“Should we decide to drop guard Barbadians and residents, that would be a sign that we are retreating and as I said before, no retreat, no surrender.
“The fact that we have recorded five days without any positive tests I believe is testimony to the outstanding effort that is being given by those public health officials who are working in the communities doing contact tracing. It also is a result of the level of cooperation and support we have been having from the general public.”