Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic, has announced that there will be an escalation in the numbers of people being tested for COVID-19 “in short order”.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, he explained: “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, out of an abundance of caution, that is the direction that we want to be able to go.”
Government’s ability to widen the scope has been facilitated by the acquisition of 2,800 swabs, which became available today, he said, significantly increasing the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ capacity.
Reiterating his call for residents not to become complacent after five consecutive days of no positive COVID-19 cases, he disclosed that the testing criteria will also be revised and a number of additional testing sites opened up for persons to access testing.
The Health and Wellness Minister noted that up to now a “fairly rigid criteria” to qualify for testing has been in place, largely because the available resources had to be carefully managed. He explained that Barbados started the process with only 500 testing kits at its disposal.
He announced: “I am happy to say today that from the paltry figure of 500 we now have available in this country 27,000 tests.”
Minister Bostic revealed that the Emergency Operations Centre will be putting out a new document that will be sent to all stakeholders, including service organizations such as the Medical and Nursing Councils as well as the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners and the pharmacy associations, in terms of the revised criteria.
Additionally, along with the already established testing sites at Paragon and the field medical facility at Jemmotts Lane, a list of new centres will shortly be made available and will include all polyclinics, the Minister shared.
He explained that despite the challenges that his Ministry faced with swabs in recent days, testing has continued with about 32 to 33 persons being tested on average over the last four or five days.
Also contributing to the reduced numbers, he added, was that fewer people were presenting with symptoms at the testing site at Paragon and there had also been a significant reduction in persons being referred from private medical facilities.
Meanwhile, Minister Bostic stated that the process of transferring patients from the Blackman and Gollop isolation facility at Staple Grove, Christ Church, to the Harrison Point facility in St. Lucy started today and he was hopeful that all 37 patients would be transferred by the end of the week.
He noted, however, that it was “a delicate operation” and no time limit could be placed on it.
Lt. Col. Bostic said Government intended to make full use of the newly refurbished facility at Harrison Point, disclosing that three patients were transferred yesterday from the Enmore isolation centre; all the staff was in place, including a complement of Cuban nurses, and the equipment in place included an adequate supply of ventilators.