Cummins: More testing labs coming on stream to eliminate backlog

Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins is rubbishing claims that some visitors to Barbados are not being tested on arrival.

She dismissed the notion on Tuesday while indicating that the additional testing labs being set up across the island would serve to ensure that test results are returned in the time promised.

Cummins told a Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) state of the industry media update on Tuesday that she was aware there was quite a bit of “chatter” around whether or not people are tested at the airport and hotels.

She insisted that “every single traveller” coming to Barbados must test either in the airport or in their hotels.

“In order to be released from quarantine they must show that they have that negative test result. So no one is cleared from quarantine to enter the community until after that has been completed,” she said.

Barbados’ travel protocol requires that all travellers to the island present a valid negative PCR test that is taken no more than three days prior to arrival. Once tested at the airport or at a designated testing site, vaccinated travellers are then allowed to leave quarantine once the test comes back negative within 24 to 48 hours.

Unvaccinated travellers, however, are tested again five days after arrival and then within one to two days and when the negative result is back they can enjoy the island.

Insisting no one was slipping through the cracks, Senator Cummins said while individuals were able to test at the airport upon arrival on the island, they also had the option to test at any of the approved quarantine hotels.

“They can test in the hotels where we have in-house facilities at two hotels and we also have medical teams assigned to every hotel that has been approved for quarantine across the country. Those medical mobile teams can go out and do go out and they test and everything is uploaded centrally in the Ministry of Health,” she said.

“And in order to leave that hotel then you are required to share your negative COVID test from one of the local labs with your front desk in order to be released from quarantine,” said Cummins, who pointed out that close to 90 per cent of visitors to the island were vaccinated.

Cummins said unvaccinated travellers are required to come also with a negative PCR test but they have a  quarantine period of five days before they take an exit test.

“The exit test then is done also by any of the laboratories and once that test comes back negative then you are cleared for release from quarantine.”

The tourism minister said only “a few” of the positive COVID-19 cases being recorded were among visitors.

“We are confident that so far we have had very few cases coming across the border and those that have come across the border, because of our quarantine policy they have been identified and picked up quickly before integration,” she said.

Several visitors have complained about the delay in getting test results with some threatening not to return to the island and to share “full and frank description” of their trip.

“We factored in, and complied with, the travel protocols required by the Barbados Government but it seems the government isn’t capable of meeting its obligations within those protocols,” said one upset UK traveller who arrived on island last Saturday but up to yesterday had not received his result.

However, Cummins gave the assurance that the delays in test results “have subsequently been resolved”.

“It is not an ongoing and continuing challenge. However, I think the most important issue here is the additional laboratory capacity that we have,” Cummins said in response to a query from Barbados TODAY on the issue.

She explained that in addition to the COVID-19 testing labs at The Crane Resort, Sandals Barbados, the Best Dos Santos facility and mobile testing facilities, Barbados welcomed another lab at the Bayview Hospital this week.

“So the idea of bringing 1,800 passengers through the airport for example on a Sunday, and having all of those combined with local numbers in a single laboratory has now seen a situation where we are spreading the density among the various labs that are doing the test for visitors. So we hope that going forward we should have fewer challenges,” assured Cummins.