Govt to move forward with antigen testing without help from Living with COVID Coalition

The government will move forward with its rapid antigen COVID-19 testing without the assistance of the Living with COVID Coalition (LWCC), Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday, adding that it will work with individuals introduced to it by LWCC.

“We’re in the process of engaging components that existed when the LWCC was running it but we don’t have the benefit of their management structure,” D’Aguilar told The Nassau Guardian. 

Asked if it will reach out to the third party screeners that were introduced to the government by LWCC, D’Aguilar said, “Correct, and the person who was supplying the tests, we have to deal with them directly. Whereas, the LWCC was kind of managing that for us.” 

On October 25, it was announced that LWCC, which is a non-profit coalition within the Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG), had entered into a public-private partnership with the government to provide access to as many as three million rapid antigen tests, which were necessary for upon arrival COVID-19 testing following the reopening of the tourism sector.

However, on Saturday, D’Aguilar announced that the government had scrapped its plans to conduct upon arrival rapid antigen testing, noting that the test will only be administered to Bahamians and visitors — staying more than four nights — five days after their arrival.

In a letter to D’Aguilar, which was dated October 29, 2020, LWCC Chairman Robert Myers wrote, “If the government follows the proposed new direction, I am unwilling to commit any further time to this endeavor or support its development.

“I will, however, seek to determine if someone within the coalition may be willing to continue this effort with the government of The Bahamas outside of the ORG Foundation.”

Yesterday, D’Aguilar described the government’s partnership with LWCC as “wonderful”.

He said the coalition gave “an inordinate amount of time and effort” in assisting the government with its goal of building a network of screeners, adding that they did so at no charge.

“We built out this network of potential screeners who would perform the test and upload the results throughout the Family Islands,” D’Aguilar said.

“They were very, very helpful in identifying who is going to do the screening. You know, this was a very complex undertaking. It’s extremely complex. I don’t know if people understand or appreciate how complex this is.

“You have to, first of all, secure a test that you’re going to get a good supply of. Then, you have to distribute it. Then, you have to figure out who is actually going to do the test itself.

“Then, you have to have the technology in place to upload it to a platform so you know that the visitor had the test.”

He said the process had “a lot of moving parts”.

“…They (LWCC) were very helpful in assisting with that for basically giving back to the country,” D’Aguilar said.

“They were really assisting us in that regard so I can’t complain at all about what they did and I perfectly understand their frustration. I get that.

“So, we are going to have to reach out to persons who were involved in that process — but not under the umbrella of the Living with COVID Coalition.

“So, they have stepped away from it but there are persons who were involved in that, persons who want to continue so we will have to continue without them. It’s still very complex.” 

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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