By Kadeem Joseph
With commodities used in the defence and management of the Covid-19 pandemic still scarce for many countries, Antigua and Barbuda has had to rely on “untraditional sources” to acquire them as health officials warn that materials used in the testing for the virus are running critically low.
Last week, the then Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Teri-Ann Joseph, announced that Covid-19 reagents were running so low that the government had to resort to sending increased samples to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad for testing.
However, Minister of Health Sir Molwyn Joseph said that additional supplies could arrive in the country in the coming days.
“I am pleased to say that we have found one of those sources and we have placed an order and within seven to 10 days we should get a sizable supply of test kits here in Antigua and Barbuda,” he said.
The minister also assured that contingency plans have been put in place in case of a major rise in hospitalisations.
He said the stocking of over 200 cylinders of oxygen, that were delivered to the country a few months ago, forms part of the government’s efforts.
“We also have portable oxygen generators… we have over 30 of those as a reserve,” he continued. “Just today (Saturday), Dr Duncan advised me that he needed a few of the portable oxygen generators and they were delivered to him. So, the system is working.”
He explained that supplies of much needed equipment, including ventilators and personal protective equipment, tend to “get short” when first world countries like the US experience spikes in viral transmission.
Sir Molwyn also indicated that while the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre is nearing capacity, the government still has spaces available to it for the housing of patients should the need arise.
He said the 17-room Infectious Disease Control Centre is functional and can house patients.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, the minister committed to commissioning the “small hospital” in the building that once housed the National Technical Training Centre on Nugent Avenue by the “end of next week”.
That facility can house “a minimum of 25 to 30 patients”, according to Sir Molwyn.
On August 23, the minister revealed that the Nugent Avenue facility had been vandalised, with damage to several air-conditioning units.
At the time, Sir Molwyn was hopeful that the facility would be commissioned that very week.
According to the latest dashboard released by the Ministry of Health, 30 people are presently hospitalised with the virus. Of those cases, four are said to be severe, 18 moderate and eight mild.