Minister of Health Renward Wells said that while work has been done to improve testing capacity in The Bahamas, a global shortage of supplies continues to challenge the efforts.
He said the government acquired machines that offer fast results, but a shortage of cartridges means they must be used sparingly. He said they are primarily using the machines for testing healthcare workers and others on the frontline.
“We have PMH (Princess Margaret Hospital) now with the Genexpert machine that gets results in about 45 minutes,” he said.
“The machines were donated by PAHO. We have one at PMH, one at South Beach and one in Grand Bahama. Those are on stream.
“Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, there is a shortage of the cartridges. We got about 2,000 of those cartridges and as a result of that we have to use it sparingly, or, rather, we have to use it wisely.”
He added, “Obviously, we’re looking at our healthcare workers and those that are on the frontlines.”
Wells said a global shortage of reagents has also caused issues.
“We’re fighting to make sure that we get our requisite share of the reagents so that we can continue to test,” he said.
Wells said another machine that was acquired is awaiting certification before it can be used to improve capacity.
“We brought in an RNA extractor machine that was able to take out some of the manual work,” he said.
“The issue that we had…is that it needed to be certified by the company that produced the machine. So, we’re in the process of certifying that so that we can continue to increase the level of work that we’re getting from the National Reference Lab.”
With an apparent COVID-19 test positivity rate of nearly 20 percent, The Bahamas has roughly four times the maximum rate recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for reopening.
In May, the WHO recommended that the positivity rate remain below five percent for two weeks or more before reopening is considered.
As of Monday, there were 2,217 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas. The COVID-19 dashboard said 11,165 tests were completed.
The numbers indicate that 19.86 percent of tests have been positive.