COVID-19 update and press conference – February 10, 2021. (PMO)

Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Anton Best, has assured Barbadians there is no cause for alarm over the 82 positive COVID-19 cases reported in the Monday, February 8, dashboard.

Speaking during this evening’s COVID-19 press conference, Dr. Best noted that while the number caused “a huge stir”, it in fact reflected positives that were diagnosed over an 11-day period, from January 29 to February 8. 

He added that the assumption was that the 82 positive persons were tested and diagnosed on the same day but that was not the case.

Giving a breakdown of the number, Dr. Best stated: “Starting on January 29, we had four cases. We went as high as 19 cases on February 3, and as low as zero cases on February 7. That was 82 cases reported on one day and not 82 cases diagnosed and tested on the same day. So, there’s no cause for alarm, in terms of the high rate of cases that were reported yesterday.”

He said the situation was due to a backlog of test samples at the Best-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory, as a result of the delay in shipping of the reagent needed for the automated extractor, which speeds up the testing process.

“When we do a PCR test for COVID, we have to go through a process of extraction. There are two ways to do it; you can either do a manual extraction or an automated extraction. We have the automated extractor, but it needs a reagent. The reagent that we ordered many months ago and that we’ve made many orders of and that we’ve been trying to procure for Barbados has not been obtained as yet.

“We keep hoping that we are going to get it, but the reality of the situation is that the demand is high and Barbados is fighting in a global market for very limited reagent. So, what we did at the Best-dos Santos Lab is that we had to resort to manual extraction and that delays the process, so that is why we have this backlog and this is why we have this problem in terms of the 82 cases that we reported,” the Senior Medical Officer outlined.

He said the lack of the reagent was also hindering public health officials from determining if the interventions employed to manage the pandemic were in fact working.

“Positivity rate is one of the key indicators to know how well a county is doing in terms of its COVID response. The positivity rate, very simply, is the proportion of tests that are positive. The benchmark that countries typically use is about five per cent. So, once you are under five per cent, you are doing pretty okay in terms of positivity rate.  If you are over five per cent, you are not doing so great.”

Dr. Best stated that the goal was to see a reduction in Barbados’ positivity rate. “[That would be] one of the indicators to say, yes, our interventions are working; we need to continue certain interventions and other interventions we can ease off on. What is hampering our ability to do that, unfortunately, is the lack of lab reagent and the lack of timely lab results. It is very difficult to do it, so we can’t do it in a real time manner,” he explained, adding that the Ministry of Health and Wellness was grappling with the situation.

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