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Thousands of coronavirus tests donated to help keep charity staff and clients safe

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Nicola Paugh, the executive director of the Inter Agency Committee for Children, Families and the Community hands over antigen test kits to Latoya Bridgewater, a community support worker, and Tia Warner, the operations administrator and receptionist at Family Centre (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

More than 20,000 Covid-19 antigen tests have been handed out to charities and other organisations last week.

The donations came after a joint effort by the Inter Agency Committee for Children, Families and the Community with the Bermuda Foundation.

The 22,000 test kits are expected to be enough to cover 32 third sector organisations for about two months.

Dora Baker, the director of Adventist Community Services Bermuda, said she planned to use about 1,700 of the rapid tests at food programmes across the island.

She added: “We have about 11 churches and in each one of them there’s a feeding ministry taking place.

“It takes various forms – for some of them, they come to the church to receive grocery hampers, for others they come to receive a meal – so there’s constantly a traffic of people.”

Ms Baker said, although coronavirus tests were recommended before attendance, she believed it was unlikely that everyone used them.

She added that a supply of antigen test kits was expected to be “very useful”.

More than 20,000 antigen self test kits were handed out third sector organisations (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Ms Baker said: “We can administer the test ourselves while they’re waiting in line … hopefully we have their co-operation for that, just to make sure that everybody is safe.”

She added: “Usually they do not necessarily resist what we bring to them, especially because we try to explain to them that we have to protect each other and also that if, at any time, any one of us is exposed to a positive case, the ministry has to shut down.”

Ms Baker added that anyone who tested positive would be asked to go for a PCR test and the Department of Health would be informed.

She said: “I want to thank whoever organised this and thought about this because it was always a concern for us that when the people come we do not know who we are mingling with.

“Now we are going to feel a little safer because we have a screening process.”

An IAC spokeswoman said that Vision Bermuda, which helps people with sight problems, asked for support “to coordinate a collective effort to provide non-profits with discounted and subsidised antigen tests”.

She added: “The IAC responded by designing a survey and canvassing the third sector to determine the extent of the need.

“It has also customised guidance for testing protocols.”

The spokeswoman said that 31 organisations responded and signalled a need for 533 frontline employees and volunteers to be tested twice a week.

More than 5,000 kits a month were also expected to be needed to test people who used services and had close contact with staff members.

The spokeswoman said: “The responding non-profit and charitable service providers identified a total testing need of over 11,000 tests per month to run a responsible screening regime.

“The tests will help non-profits to implement antigen test screening programmes that can help to quickly identify people with Covid-19, informing infection, prevention and control measures.

“This will help non-profits to take mitigative action, make informed decisions and have better confidence in their workplace safety.

“The testing regime will also help keep the public safe.”

She added that a coordinated effort with the Bermuda Foundation was needed to raise funds.

The IAC contacted Myra Virgil, the Bermuda Foundation chief executive officer, who worked with Jeremy Estey, a special projects consultant at CG Insurance, to get the antigen tests at a reduced bulk rate.

The spokeswoman said: “The Bermuda Foundation then secured the needed funds to finance the initial two months supply – over $45,000 – through a call to insurance providers and private foundations.

“Centennial Bermuda Foundation and BF&M responded immediately.

“Argus Insurance has supported the effort by offering to donate all proceeds of sales of antigen tests to their clients, to the initiative.

“CG Insurance has also donated 1,000 tests in addition to facilitating and placing the bulk order with their vendor.”

The Bermuda Red Cross provided temporary storage and distribution space, for the tests, which were distributed last Thursday.

Nicola Paugh, the IAC executive director, said: “For non-profits, every dollar counts and this gift means that more time, energy and funds can go directly to client programmes and services instead of being used to source, fund and purchase antigen test supplies.

“It also demonstrates the benefits of coordinated and collaborative efforts to the sector.”

The spokeswoman added that more support would be needed to ensure a steady stream of subsidised tests to the charity sector.

To contribute, visit the Bermuda Foundation’s Hardship Fund at www.bcf.bm, click on “Give Now” and select the fund from the drop-down list.

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Published December 13, 2021 at 7:58 am (Updated December 13, 2021 at 7:58 am)

Thousands of coronavirus tests donated to help keep charity staff and clients safe

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