660 people tested for COVID-19

660 people tested for COVID-19
A CDC COVID-19 testing kit (FILE PHOTO)

National Reference Laboratory can process 50 tests per day

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands confirmed yesterday 660 people had been tested for the coronavirus (COVID-19) in The Bahamas.

Several hundred more are expected to be tested by the end of the week, according to the minister.

Former Chief Medical Officer Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis recently said testing capacity was at 50 per day, up from the five per day weeks ago.

“We are doing genetic testing, and to accomplish the sensitivity and specificity of the tests, it takes a while to remove the genetic material and then run the tests,” she said.

“And that is what we call, rate limiting steps.

“But I can assure you all that as soon as we have the capacity to do more tests, we will do more tests and we have to have protocols — internationally agreed protocols — that we are following now.

“We have our staff, everyone, recognizing that The Bahamas is The Bahamas and it is not everywhere else, we are accommodating deviations or changes to the protocols.”

As of March 22, 117 people had been tested for the virus.

As of last week, 493 people had been tested.

COVID-19 testing is conducted at the Ministry of Health’s National Reference Laboratory.

It is internationally accredited by the College of American Pathologist and the only laboratory certified to perform testing for the virus.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has been working with the government to build lab capacity and sourcing test kits.

In a national address Monday, Prime Minister Dr Minnis said the Ministry of Health plans to expand testing this week, which is expected to increase the positive cases found.

According to the prime minister, health officials have prioritized individuals with moderate to severe signs of the virus, but as testing expands, more people will be diagnosed, including those with mild symptoms.

He said the exercise will help to present a broader picture of where The Bahamas is in the surge, adding the data should also reflect a lowered case mortality rate.

There have been 53 cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

Eight people have died.

This places the country’s case fatality rate (CFR) at just over 15 percent.

The global CFR projected rate is around four percent.

Last week, National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme Director Dr Nikkiah Forbes explained the high CFR in The Bahamas was a reflection of the government’s ability to perform widespread testing.

When asked about relaxing the criteria to expanding testing, Dahl-Regis said: “We have already started to increase our capacity to test. In fact, it is almost 10 fold from the time we first started to right now, and it is human resource dependent. The minister did share with you that we have now have support from the medical technologists — you have to training to do the testing — who have participated in the training. We are [encouraging] all who will help to please come.”