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By Orville Williams

Residents and visitors who require testing for Covid-19 will soon be able to do so at private medical facilities, following a Cabinet decision to decentralise the process.

Previously, the government required all aspects of the Covid-19 management, including testing, to go through the Ministry of Health for safety and accountability reasons. In fact, leading physician Dr Joseph “Joey” John, came under some level of scrutiny from the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister following his announcement that four out of a batch of Covid-19 tests (that he had conducted privately on employees at a local resort) came back positive.

However, with the burden for testing now increasing, the move is meant to lift the strain from the ministry and share the burden throughout the wider medical sector.

Cabinet spokesperson, Information Minister Melford Nicholas, explained in the post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday that with the required scope of testing now significantly greater than before, the government will not be able to solely manage the process.

“The need to have a more regimented approach towards testing [will] put an enormous amount of strain on the limited laboratory technicians and resources that we have. Specifically, in the medical services, anyone who is being prepared for surgery is required to have a PCR test [and] anyone who is required to leave our state to travel for any reason – whether it is medical or otherwise – is also required to have a PCR test.

“Accordingly, the Cabinet has taken the policy decision, working through the Ministry of Health, that there are several private laboratories that we will engage to ensure that the testing – even utilising the resources and to the standards that the government would want – can be done through the private laboratories,” he explained.

The government is also prepared to provide an amount of Sofia 2 antigen test units for the approved private laboratories, as a large stock is now available on island.

“The government would have acquired, over a period of time, in excess of 20,000 of these test units when they were originally required for [the reopening of] the airport on June 1. There had been a delay in their shipment, but we have subsequently received those units,” Nicholas added.

“The government is of the view now that we can redeploy some of those test units to be able to accommodate a number of other options.”

Though he did not reveal any further details regarding the timeline for implementation or the designated laboratories, the minister said the necessary information would be provided by the relevant authority.

“I believe the Ministry of Health will be in a position, either later this week or early next week, to give details of how that policy is going to be implemented,” he said.

While the decision has already been made at the Cabinet level, Nicholas said it would be ratified during a parliamentary sitting next Tuesday.

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