More public COVID-19 testing sites are to be setup, as the Ministry of Health and Wellness undertakes a new diagnostic approach in response to the pandemic.
Speaking during a press conference last evening, Health Minister Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic revealed that Queen’s Park had been identified as one of those sites, given its central and easily accessible location in Bridgetown. The other sites, he said, would be announced at a later date.
He added that assistance was also being sought from the private sector, where possible, to help deal with the large volume of persons seeking to know their COVID-19 status.
Minister Bostic explained that the objective was to reduce the burden on the Wildey Gymnasium, and Branford Taitt and Eunice Gibson Polyclinics.
“I’ve been observing the large numbers and it really was not a comfortable feeling for me, not from a public health perspective, nor from the perspective of trying to make things comfortable for Barbadians, who have to utilise those services.
“And, we didn’t want to have a situation where people would have been standing in the line waiting for so long under those conditions, especially when a lot of these persons might have been persons who were exposed as primary contacts….”
Lt. Col. Bostic further stated the surge in community transmission had led to public health authorities having to make some “some tough … but right decisions”, in order to expand the testing capacity for the general population.
He said this was the rationale behind the changing of the entry protocols at the Grantley Adams International Airport. As of Sunday, October 24, fully vaccinated travellers with a valid pre-flight COVID-19 PCR test would no longer be required to test or quarantine on arrival. This test remains mandatory and must be done 72 hours before travel.
“Now, it does not mean that if the situation warrants in time to come that we would not go back to testing at the airport, because this, as I said, is a dynamic situation, but we have to deal with the current situation and the area of greatest threat to the country, and that area is within communities,” Lt. Col. Bostic added.
He further noted that a small team would remain at the airport to conduct testing of individuals, who arrive with a test which did not meet the standard established by Barbados’ public health authorities.
The Health Minister said this overall approach was “a part of a new testing strategy” being developed with the assistance of the Pan American Health Organization.
Meanwhile, he cautioned that the new testing arrangement could see the daily positivity rate increasing “because we will be testing a smaller number of persons coming in, and also the fact that those persons will not be positive cases for the most part, the most positive cases will continue to be persons as a result of community transmission”.
The Health Minister also sought to assure the country that Government would continue to explore ways through which it could strengthen its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.