Health officials on Tuesday took delivery of a fresh batch of equipment to help in the fight against the Coronavirus and the backlog in test results brought on by a recent spike in cases.
The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) donated over $1 million worth of personal protective equipment, COVID-19 rapid test devices (also known as rapid antigen testing kits) and patient monitors and infusion pumps to the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
During a brief handing-over ceremony at PAHO’s Dayrell’s Road offices, Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Dr Yitades Gebre said the aim was to help Barbados build capacity to stop the spread of the virus, protect frontline workers and save lives.
While expressing concern about the continued global spread of the virus, which up to Tuesday killed more than two million people and infected over 96.3 million people globally, Dr Gebre expressed confidence that local authorities would bring the surge in COVID-19 infections under control.
Up to Tuesday afternoon, Barbados had recorded a total of 1,095 cases from which seven people have died. There are 595 active cases.
The country experienced a dramatic spike in locally originated cases between the end of December and early January, worsening the bottleneck in test results.
Dr Gebre said: “Following the holidays we have observed a surge in COVID-19 cases not only in Barbados but in many countries in the Eastern Caribbean and elsewhere”.
“Globally, the death toll could reach 100,000 per week in coming days and this is not good statistics to talk about.
I am fully confident that the current outbreak in Barbados will be managed and contained if we apply the right interventions at the right time and at the right place.”
The PAHO representative also urged authorities and residents to learn from the COVID-19 experience.
Warning that the number of COVID-19 cases could easily “go up quickly”, the PAHO official urged individuals and Government to follow through on their commitments to build surveillance and maintain public health and social measures to stem the spread of the virus.
“We have to continue to take these actions to be able to protect ourselves and our loved ones and then build our countries,” he said.
In accepting the donation, Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic said the tools and equipment came at a time that they were most needed.
“The items and the equipment always come at a time when we most need them and this is such a time,” said Lt. Col. Bostic.
He disclosed that recommendations on how to proceed with the recent surge in cases were given to local officials from PAHO representatives.
“The antigen rapid test, for example, is most timely because that has been a recommendation from PAHO to help us out of the current situation. We have already started to use the antigen test but we didn’t have enough supply, and this really will take us a fairly long way until we are able to purchase additional stock,” said the health minister, who insisted that at no point was the country running critically low on any supply.
Lt. Col. Bostic said considerable progress was made in bringing down the backlog, adding that officials were in the “final stages of mopping up” the just under 1,000 tests that remain.
Insisting that there will be no retreat or surrender in the fight against the virus here, he called on residents and visitors to play their part, adding that “we are in a fight and there are times we are going to be down… but when we fall we dust ourselves off and pick ourselves up and we start fighting again”.
Some of the new supplies were expected to be put into service as early as Tuesday or Wednesday this week.
In late December, PAHO/WHO donated thermometers, IT systems and equipment for infection prevention and control, as part of their mandate to support member countries’ response to the pandemic.