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Covid-19 tests could hit 900 a day

More than 900 tests a day for Covid-19 could be carried out now that two laboratories are up and running, it was revealed last night.

A government spokeswoman said that the labs had the immediate ability to do 200 tests every day — and the number would increase more than fourfold when they were fully staffed.

David Burt, the Premier, added: “Today is a milestone in Bermuda's fight against Covid-19.”

He said: “Thanks to the hard work of the team at the Ministry of Health, we are now able to dramatically increase the number of people who can be tested in Bermuda for Covid-19.

“The increased testing capabilities means our testing throughout is enhanced as we seek to combat this disease and gradually reopen our economy.

“Testing is key to reopening our economy and we now have the capacity to test as many persons as we will need to.”

Mr Burt added that the island now had 10,000 swabs and that 2,000 more test kits would arrive today and 10,000 test kits bought from the Cayman Islands would come in on the British Airways air bridge flight from London on Friday.

He said: “The bottom line is Bermuda has sufficient testing kits and swabs to fully execute our aggressive testing strategy.

“This next week, we will focus on testing the right people, including healthcare professionals, our vulnerable in seniors' homes, contacts of persons who have tested positive for Covid-19 and our essential workers.”

Mr Burt was speaking after the Bermuda Government Molecular Diagnostic Testing Laboratory, to be run under the supervision of Bermudian scientist Carika Weldon, joined Helix Laboratory, operated by Desiree Spriggs on the front line of the battle against the coronavirus.

He added that both labs had test kits and “additional supplies”. Mr Burt said: “Bermuda currently has the test kits to complete 800 more tests.”

Mr Burt said: “Additional tests kit parts, which were secured by Dr Weldon, arrived with her on the air bridge flight on April 6.

“The balance of the shipment, which will give the island the ability to complete 40,000 additional tests, will begin arriving on the flight from London this coming Friday.”

“Testing is key to reopening our economy, and we now have the capacity to test as many persons as we will need to.”

Mr Burt said the health ministry had drawn up “exit protocols” for people in quarantine in government-approved centres as their mandatory 14-day isolation period drew to an end.

He added: “Out of an abundance of caution, everyone who is currently in a government quarantine facility has been tested for Covid-19, ahead of them returning to their respective homes.

“If, after being tested, a person is found to be confirmed positive with Covid-19, they will be isolated appropriately.”

Mr Burt said that 190 samples had been collected yesterday from people at six government quarantine centres and the results as well as “any additional results” would be announced today.

He added that no new test results had come back by yesterday afternoon.

Mr Burt said on Saturday said that three new coronavirus cases had been reported.

He told people in a Facebook Q&A session that the new diagnoses, all in women, were among 57 test results returned on Saturday. The rest of the tests were clear.

Mr Burt said at the time that one of the women was in hospital, but that the other two did not need inpatient treatment.

He added that the source of infection of the three new cases was under investigation.

The announcement brought the total number of cases to 86, with 46 cases active and 35 recovered.

Ten people remain in hospital and five people have died.

Mr Burt said he did not think it was “a wise policy, thought or decision” to believe the virus could be completely eliminated — a course that would mean further lockdowns and keep ports of entry closed for the next 12 to 18 months until a vaccine was made available.

He added that the Bermuda testing model could not be compared to those used in other countries.

He explained: “We have to understand we are a small community and we actually have an older community ... it's dangerous to compare the experience of other countries and their reporting.”

Mr Burt added that people who already had exemptions from the shelter-in-place rules did not have to reapply for the second two weeks of the regulations.

He said that legislation to allow people to access “additional funds” from pensions was being looked at to ease the financial problems caused by the almost total shutdown of the economy.

Mr Burt admitted there had been some “pushback” on the Government's decision to start charging people $100 a day for time in mandatory 14-day confinement in an approved centre — but that most could afford it and those who could not would get assistance.

He also signalled that the annual Cup Match event, due to be held at the end of July, might have to be cancelled.

Mr Burt said he looked forward to the red and blue of Somerset and the dark blue and light blue of St George's being displayed at Cup Match time.

But he added: “I think we are going to have to adjust to a new reality.”

To read the Premier's statement on the readiness of the second laboratory, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

Milestone in fight: David Burt, the Premier, hailed Sunday as “a good day” in the coronavirus crisis (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published April 20, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 20, 2020 at 7:56 pm)

Covid-19 tests could hit 900 a day

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