The newly established government COVID Helpline receives over 200 calls a day “all matter of issues 12 hours a day”.
And according to Health Minister Kim Wilson, the staff running the helpline “do a stellar job at providing information and reassurances to the public”.
Speaking a government news conference held earlier this week, Ms Wilson said most “queries from the public over recent days” asked “if Government plans to source any ‘rapid tests’.
“And to that I will say that we are exploring all avenues when it comes to the procurement of valid testing kits, from all over the world.
“However, it should be noted that test results are already available within 24 to 48 hours,” said Ms Wilson.
“This turnaround time depends, among other factors, on the number of tests done at any given time.
“The lab tries, whenever possible, to do ‘batch testing’ so that our testing materials can process more tests at a time.
“Batching allows the best use of testing capacity, and it is the reason why some results come through after 48 hours, rather than 24 hours.
“What I can assure completely is that we are testing all symptomatic persons and conducting contact tracing fully to ensure we leave no stone unturned in identifying and isolating any suspect cases immediately. This stops the spread in its tracks,” she added.
“Another question the Ministry has been asked is how much do testing kits cost and will under/uninsured people have to pay for them…
“As the Premier has already stated previously, the cost of test kits will be covered. Nobody will be asked to pay out of pocket for clinically referred testing.
“The cost itself varies, depending on the type of test performed or/and if batch testing is done. It is not possible to provide a set figure at this time as there are many factors involved but it has been agreed that $300 would be covered by insurers.”
By now she said people “pretty much all of us appreciate that the threat of COVID-19 MUST be taken seriously …
“…Which is why Bermuda is testing as much as it can and ramping up to test more widely… so we can detect cases early, isolate them and then follow up with their close contacts as quickly as possible.
“Our testing criteria has changed and is more wide-reaching,” she said.
“The WHO guidance, which we follow, has relaxed slightly… so that the case definition no longer specifies the travel aspect for individuals who are suspect for COVID-19. Also, we are now testing persons with respiratory symptoms of any kind.
“However, it is important to note that in order to be tested an individual must first be assessed by their physician who will then refer patients for testing via the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit.”
The Minister also noted that “the Epidemiology Team works long hours translating the testing and contact tracing data into the numbers we can share with you daily”.
“Testing is a massive coordinated effort involving long hours, exposing oneself to potential risks. And there are many other staff, from administrators to accounts folks and communicators who are developing guidance documents, keeping the website up to date and paying bills for the materials being purchased,” said Ms Wilson.
“COVID containment is a tremendous public health effort and I’m grateful to my team at the Ministry of Health whose work is often invisible but has to be applauded for helping to keep Bermuda safe and well.
“In closing, I want to thank my staff for the tremendous effort and hard work they are putting into fighting this virus.
“It is easy to remember the front line workers we traditionally think of – the doctors and nurses. But there are many more people involved in this effort.”
The hotline is open from 9am until 9pm every day, the number for the COVID-19 Information Hotline is (441)444-2498.