Lab would cope with new wave of Covid infections, doctor says
Health officials insisted last night they were confident that the government lab on the front line of the battle against Covid-19 could cope with a flood of tests if another major outbreak happened.
Ayo Oyinloye, the Chief Medical Officer, said the Molecular Diagnostic and Research Laboratory, which will be moved from the Cabinet Office to the Ministry of Health next month, was able to call on “sufficient capacity if we need to make a surge in testing”.
Dr Oyinloye admitted there had been "challenges" with MDL so that typing of coronavirus variants had not been available on the island.
He was speaking after it was revealed that staff at the Warwick lab were to be laid off.
Dr Oyinloye said Bermuda was working with health officials in New York, as well as with the Caribbean Public Health Agency, to collect more information on variants.
He added that the island’s lab had earlier used equipment and staff from New York to get its own detailed variant testing.
But he said MDL was now only able to determine “family groups” for coronavirus variants — and that the machine capable of analysing the virus was having “downtime between uses”.
MDL analysed the PCR tests that were the standard for detection of the coronavirus until antigen tests became the norm.
Dr Oyinloye said: “We are unlikely to get in a situation where all our testing will be PCR again. We are already using a lot of antigen tests.”
Bermuda’s healthcare workers who have battled through two years of the coronavirus pandemic got a round of applause from Ayo Oyinloye, the Chief Medical Officer, and Wesley Miller, the Chief of Staff at the Bermuda Hospitals Board.
Dr Oyinloye said he wanted to thank “all my colleagues who worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic and are still working”.
He added the hard work and effort was “really appreciated”.
Dr Oyinloye told staff: “You are real heroes.”
Dr Miller also commended the island’s “wonderful” healthcare staff — along with “the public of Bermuda, who have played a significant part in helping us to manage the previous waves of Covid as well as this one, and whose co-operation will be important going forward”.
Kim Wilson, the health minister, said that more than 80 per cent of the island’s tests were now over-the-counter antigen tests, instead of the labour-intensive PCR method.