On March 16, 2020, staff at the Best Dos Santos Public Laboratory found themselves caught in a tornado of emotions when the first two cases of COVID-19 in Barbados were confirmed.
For the small team, led by Lab Director Dr Songee Beckles, there was an air of nervousness mixed with excitement when the positive results were returned. It meant the strenuous training conducted by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) had adequately prepared them for this eventuality. Fear and anxiety quickly took over when they realised the virus that brought the rest of the world to a halt had finally reached the shores of Barbados.
In the weeks and months that followed, the team buckled down and dived into an extensive testing regime. There was little time to consider emotions or even sleep, as the workload at the laboratory increased significantly, with as many as 600 samples being tested on a given day.
“We spent many hours in the lab, sometimes from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. the next day. We were determined that we were not leaving until the testing was done,” Dr Beckles says.