Representatives of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) will be in the country this week conducting training to ensure that laboratory specialists are trained and equipped to identify and respond to potential imported cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
The initiative is part of PAHO’s effort to have 29 laboratories “ready to detect” the virus by February 21.
“As one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, the Caribbean must prepare to detect and respond quickly to imported cases of COVID-19,” said Yitades Gebre, PAHO/WHO representative for Barbados and Eastern Caribbean Countries in a recent press release.
“Providing countries with the reagents and knowledge needed to perform early diagnosis is key for outbreak response and protecting our populations.”
The release also stated, “During the training, laboratories, which include both National Influenza Centers and Flu national labs, are provided with the diagnostic materials required to test for COVID-19.”
It added, “The laboratories selected for training are those that already provide testing for influenza.
“This means that instead of developing a laboratory from scratch, the protocol recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and PAHO for testing for COVID-19 can simply be added to countries’ existing protocols for influenza testing.”
Deputy Director of the Health Emergencies Department at PAHO Sylvain Aldighieri in the release highlighted the importance of conducting this training.
“We know that a country’s health system is most likely to be the first point of entry for a suspected case of new coronavirus,” said Aldighieri.
“The training being carried out by PAHO in influenza laboratories in the region is the most effective way to equip countries with the ability to detect, monitor and respond to cases in a timely manner.”
To date there have been over 69,000 cases of COVID-19 which originated in Wuhan, China, in December with 1,669 deaths worldwide.
According to the New York Times, the first related death outside of Asia occurred on Saturday when an 80-year-old Chinese tourist died in France.
On January 30, local health officials announced a new travel ban on all non-residents of The Bahamas who have visited China in the past 20 days.
Under the new ban, Bahamian residents who have visited China in the past 20 days are permitted to return but will have to be quarantined for 14 days.
As of yesterday, there were no individuals in quarantine and no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas, according to Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands.