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Covid-19: Test demand surges as active cases reach 103

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There are now more than 100 active Covid-19 cases in Bermuda, although only two people are in hospital.
Residents wait to be tested at the Covid-19 testing station at the Star of India in Dockyard yesterday. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

People desperate to take a Covid-19 test may have to wait until Christmas for an appointment after a surge in demand.

Residents have complained of having calls to a Government hotline go unanswered, while those booking online have been unable to get an appointment for at least ten days.

Concerns were raised after the island recorded another ten cases of the virus yesterday, bringing the number of active cases to 103.

Government announced on Tuesday that it was restructuring testing resources in order to get more people tested.

David Burt, the Premier, said it was hoped that 1,000 people could be tested every day once the new schedule kicks in next Monday.

But as part of that shake-up, anyone wishing to take a test will have to make an appointment through the department of health, rather than turn up and queue at pop-up testing centres without one.

Under the revamped schedule, tests will be taken at three locations – Star of India at Dockyard, Bull’s Head car park in Hamilton, and Penno’s Wharf in St. George’s.

According to Government’s website, the next available date for a test at Star of India and Bull’s Head is December 22.

Those wishing to take a test at Penno’s Wharf can still secure an appointment for December 20, but there are only a handful of spots left. The next available date after that is December 23.

The webpage states: “All testing is by appointment only.”

One resident, who asked not to be named, said she tried to book a test yesterday after learning that a friend had tested positive for the virus.

She dialled the hotline number repeatedly, but was on hold for so long that she eventually hung up.

She then tried to book an appointment online and was given an appointment date of December 19 – ten days away.

“It’s just a mess, it’s completely crazy,” the Paget resident said. “We’re continually told that testing is vital to track and beat this disease, but when you try to book an appointment, it’s impossible.

“I thought I’d be able to get an appointment fairly quickly because of my circumstances – I’ve been in contact with someone who has the virus.

“But it was impossible to get to speak to anyone. So I went online and was given a test date for December 19 – obviously demand must be too high.”

The woman eventually booked an appointment through her doctor and was tested last night.

She said: I’m lucky, I have insurance, but what if you don’t? Can you really be expected to wait that long?

“There really should be some spots reserved for walk-ins, for people who learn at the last minute that they have been exposed to the virus.

“But you can’t just show up, you now have to go through officialdom, and that means a very long wait.

A St. David’s resident, who also asked not to be named, said her family’s travel plans had been thrown into turmoil after booking tests for December 15 at Southside.

She said her family needed to take the test on that date as they have to travel two days later for personal family reasons.

But yesterday she realised that the appointment had not been transferred from Southside to the new Penno’s Wharf location, and had received no notification from Government.

She said: “I’ve tried to book at other sites. Every site is now full. I call Government offices and there’s no answer.

“I’ve called the Covid-19 hotline seven times – I wait and wait and wait and the phone goes dead.”

She said the stress of the situation was taking a toll on her mental health, and her family doctor was unable to provide a test.

She added: “I’d pay to have it done if I could.”

Last night a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said that Government had to prioritise testing.

She said: “Walk-ins are limited due to the large number of close contacts who need to be tested in relation to the recent outbreaks.

“The number of calls is large, however it is consistent with the number of outbreaks, which is expected.”

The ten new cases reported on Tuesday were identified in 762 test results that came back to the ministry and bring the total number of confirmed cases to 340.

Two people are in hospital, including one in critical care.

The latest figures included seven cases that were transmitted on the island with a known contact or source – four were under quarantine as close contacts of known cases and three were linked to known clusters.

The other three cases are under investigation.

A ministry spokeswoman added: “These cases are among residents with no history of travel or any currently identified links to other known cases or clusters.”

The seven-day average of Bermuda’s real time reproduction number is now 1.41 and the island’s country status is “clusters of cases” but is under review.

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Published December 10, 2020 at 9:33 am (Updated December 10, 2020 at 9:45 am)

Covid-19: Test demand surges as active cases reach 103

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