By Machela Osagboro
Prime Minister Gaston Browne revealed to the nation last weekend that at least 10 percent of the population will be tested in the coming weeks to determine if there are any more cases of the dreaded corona virus and importantly increase the contact tracing of the virus across communities on Island.
Speaking on Pointe fm on Saturday Browne stated that, “in so far as testing is concerned we recognize that, that is one of the areas which we have not done very well in terms of the quantity of tests that we conduct”.
“We should definitely be in a position to commence significant testing in this coming week, I know that we have approximately 6,500 kits on Island. The Chinese have donated 2,500, the Venezuelans, 3000 and over the weekend we got in 1000 kits from PAHO”, he said.
Browne added that with these new additions the health officials are now armed and ready to conduct extensive testing within the coming weeks. Previously the twin-Island had to send all the tests to Caribbean Public Health Agency CARPHA in Trinidad.
Importantly he added that the infectious disease center is now complete, and that the facility will be opened this week. “It has the capacity to accommodate 18 nurses who will be able to live there and I am very pleased that at least the construction phase has been completed and what we will be doing for the next couple of days s to fit all of the equipment for the ventilators, and we should be able to accommodate 17 individuals who should become ill with COVID”. Browne said that now the country is better fortified to deal with any infectious disease outbreak that is to come.
The prime minister also stated that the training of several lab technicians took place over the weekend in order to equip the technicians with the skills to accurately carryout the tests.
Browne lauded the response of the health sector to the outbreak of the virus and stated that it was a timely one as Antigua and Barbuda was one of the first countries in the Caribbean to discontinue travel of individuals from China to the displeasure of the officials at the Chinese embassy.
He also claimed that the extensive contact tracing that was done by health officials went a long way in staving off the spread of the virus on island.
“We are very proud of them, they have done a great job, kudos to the health officials and Antiguans and Barbudans, our people have been very compliant”. However, he continued to urge residents to adhere to the curfew restriction and accept some degree of personal responsibility especially for the most vulnerable.
“As we relax the restrictions, we still expect those who are vulnerable to be extremely cautious. As far as practicable, we expect them to stay home and to protect themselves against the virus”, he added.
Browne said that this is to prevent significant fatalities and the overwhelming of the health care system as it has been proven that the virus can be re contracted.