Minister of Health and Wellness Jeffrey Bostic apologised to visitors and Barbadians for delays at the Best-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory in processing COVID-19 results within the 24- to 48-hour window and gave the assurance this would improve “in the coming days”.
Bostic was speaking during a media briefing from Ilaro Court on Tuesday evening. It was streamed across social media and he was accompanied by Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Lisa Cummins.
The Minister said Government recognised there would be a need for increased testing during the winter season, but there were challenges at the lab which resulted in delays. This caused some visitors and returning nationals to spend more time than was anticipated in the designated quarantine hotels.
He said although countries across the world were experiencing delays with COVID testing – which in some instances resulted in visitors arriving in Barbados without the results of tests they paid for at home – this was not an excuse.
“With that apology, I want to give the assurance to our visitors, to Barbadians returning, to those persons who depend on the lab and the system for those results, that based on what we have established right now in terms of establishing a special unit that would be dealing with this specifically, and with the additional resources provided, we are going to overcome these challenges in the very near future,” Bostic said.
Government hired more data entry and technical resources for the lab and they were being trained. Training is almost complete in the use of the Shape App, which will allow the exchange of information in real time. The Minister said there was also the intention to move to a 24-hour operation at the lab.
Bostic said he toured the Best-dos Santos Lab earlier Tuesday and some of the swabs from Monday were being processed, an indication that they were making progress with the backlog. It will operate on Christmas Day.
Since the first case of COVID-19 was detected here in March, the lab conducted almost 62 000 tests, including 12 000 in December alone and about 3 000 in the last three days, Bostic said.
Barbados recorded 327 COVID-19 cases up to Sunday. The majority have recovered, with 36 remaining in quarantine. There were seven deaths.