PAHO/WHO introduces the use of SARS-CoV-2 antigen-detecting rapid diagnostic test to Barbados COVID-19 outbreak response

20 Jan 2021
Handover of supplies to BRB MOH

Bridgetown, Barbados, January 19, 2021 (PAHO/WHO) – Following the holidays there has been a surge in COVID-19 cases not only in Barbados but in many countries of the Eastern Caribbean.

At a ceremony to handover essential supplies and equipment to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries, Dr Yitades Gebre said, “I am fully confident that the current outbreak in Barbados will be managed and contained if we apply the right intervention at the right time and at the right place.”

Dr Gebre outlined that there was no one size fits all solutions for the current challenge and that countries should assess their risks, put in place mitigation measures, and communicate the risks to citizens and communities. 

He noted the importance of improving surge capacity in the health system and seeking cooperation from the public, and that all measures must balance lives and livelihoods especially vulnerable people. 

The Ministry of Health and Wellness received a timely donation of 20,000 rapid antigen based diagnostic test devices from PAHO.  This donation follows a recent new health policy announced by the government of Barbados, the introduction of a rapid antigen diagnostic test during the 14-day quarantine period to reduce the length of quarantine.

Dr Yitades Gebre, PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries

Dr Gebre reported that this new technology for SARS-CoV-2 detection is much simpler and faster to perform than the nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) like RT-PCR.  “In our revised public health surveillance for COVID-19 guidance, in addition to NAAT tests, which remain the reference standard, WHO introduces antigen-detecting rapid diagnostic tests as a confirmatory method,” he said. PAHO will deploy a virologist to Barbados to provide training to laboratory personnel in the use of the testing device.

In addition to the rapid antigen based diagnostic test devices, eight patient monitors and infusion pumps and personal protective equipment (PPE) kits for isolation facilities and hospital care were also donated.  The PPE packages include surgical gowns, face shielded surgical masks, respirators, and gloves.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt Col Hon Jeffery Bostic, in his remarks said, “It seems whenever I am receiving supplies and equipment from PAHO that there seem to be some type of divine intervention because the items always come at a time when we most need them.”

Lt Col Hon Jeffery Bostic, Minister of Health and Wellness

Minister Bostic explained that since the 1st January with over 160 cases in current surge, the Ministry of Health and Wellness recognized they were fighting the most difficult battle in the war against COVID-19. 

He said they were confident of overcoming the challenge because of the support from the team at the Ministry of Health and Wellness and stakeholder partners, that have been fighting from the start of the pandemic to keep the country safe.

“We have been relying on the assistance both technical and material from PAHO over the last several months, that guidance is still very much us” he said.

Minster Bostic mentioned the timeliness and appreciation for the antigen rapid tests, one of the recommendations from PAHO to assist with the challenge of returning tests results on time.

Also present at the handover ceremony were Dr Kenneth George, Chief Medical Officer and Mrs. Jane Phillips, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness.