On-island testing for COVID-19 with a maximum turnaround time for results within 48 hours has started as samples were collected at the hospital on Friday.

In his latest update, Premier David Burt said those samples were being processed this weekend, with results expected on Sunday.

“This is a significant step, and is a partnership between the Ministry of Health, Helix Laboratories and the Bermuda Hospitals Board, and I am certain this is relieving news for the community,” said Mr Burt.

“The Ministry of Health is currently being guided by Public Health England and the Pan American Health Organisation every step of the way.”

Until the test kits arrived, samples were sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad to be tested. Results took up four or five days.

But Bermuda only has 150 tests.

According to the Premier, the original order was for 950 but another 800 tests are due to arrive over the next two weeks.

“In addition, the Ministry has placed another order to make sure there is increased testing capacity as we go forward over the next few weeks,” he said.

Members of the public were also cautioned against panic-buying inaccurate “COVID-19 point of care” blood tests that promise instant results.

“The Ministry of Health is unaware of any valid data that rapid point of care tests for Covid-19 that have been independently scientifically validated to give viable results,” said Mr Burt.

“The use of non-validated testing can produce a false negative result, which could lull people into a false sense of security and unconsciously lead to more spreading of COVID-19.

“The Ministry will be testing people who may have been exposed to persons who have tested positive with Covid-19,” he added.

On the two people who have tested positive for COVID-19, Health Minister Kim Wilson said the Ministry has identified 18 people who may have come in contact with them.

“All of those persons have been contacted and have been provided with public health information. None of them have exhibited any symptoms or any health challenges.

“The two people who tested positive have made full recoveries. They had very mild symptoms and did not require any hospitalisation.”

Due to the “minimal amount of tests” on-island, she said only those out of the 18 people who had symptoms were tested.

“Normally we test persons that have symptoms because if you test symptomless patients the results can be false negative or false positive, which can be detrimental because a person could be informed they do not have it when in fact they do because there are no antibodies in their system at the time of testing,” she said.

Premier Burt added: “The Ministry of Health is unaware of any validated rapid point of care tests for COVID-19 that have been independently, scientifically validated to give reliable results.

“The public are reminded that the testing criteria for Bermuda is guided by the World Health Organization and will be updated if and when that guidance is updated,” he said.

“This does mean that not every person in Bermuda will be eligible to be tested for COVID-19. There is limited testing supply in Bermuda. The guidance that is going to be followed is from the World Health Organization.”

  • Top Feature Photo Courtesy of TNN