Wednesday 23 September, 2020

PM Mottley defends COVID-19 testing, travel protocols

Prime Minister Mia Mottley has defended the COVID-19 travel protocols saying that mandatory testing was not always practical. 

Presently, visitors to the island’s shores are allowed to take a COVID-19 PCR test from an accredited facility 72 hours prior to travelling. While testing prior to arrival is not mandatory the protocol states that such travellers will be required to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival.

Over the weekend Barbados recorded an additonal 12 positive cases of COVDI-19. Ten persons out of the 12 were housed in isolation centers across the island. 

While many believe that testing for the novel coronavirus should be mandatory before travelling to the island, Prime Minister Mia Mottley hinted that such a requirement, while ideal, it was not always practical.

“With respect to the issue of mandatory testing, we have said that we strongly encourage people to test, but I also know that the test which the Barbados government uses is of a certain quality and therefore we have no difficulty in testing persons when they come. Part of the difficulty is people’s ability to access tests within a timely frame,” PM Mottley revealed during the press conference yesterday (August 5).

The PM went on to add that about four weeks ago she had a conversation with Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo about establishing a testing facility in New York. This was to facilitate testing persons almost immediately before they got on the plane, but such wasn’t feasible.

The PM made it clear that she had read the comments surrounding the issue of mandatory testing and so she sought to clear the air.

She stated: “Governor Cumo made it clear that the ability for labs in the US to be able to give people tests results back within 72 hours is severely compromised and at that time national labs were taking six and seven days to give back people results.”

She added: “Even if we tested 24 hours before, there would be a risk for the 24 hours and that is why our team here, and I want to commend them for it, strongly recommended that the government of Barbados, for high-risk countries, will test within seven days of arrival to Barbados because that period of risk between when you tested and when you reach here, that we recognize that the incubation period of 2-6 days may mean that even if you have a negative result you can have a positive within 2-6 days of your exposure.”

Stating that in an ideal world the airlines would be testing, the PM also highlighted that the airlines made their position very clear, globally and not just in the Caribbean, that they would not be taking any responsibility for testing travellers.

The decision was therefore made to conduct tests of travellers from high-risk countries upon arrival, in an attempt to correct any deficiencies and to maintain local control.

The PM went on to assure Barbadians that the PCR test used for local testing was the gold standard and double tests will be conducted where there is doubt.

Highlighting that there is no predetermined path or script where COVID-19 was concerned she stressed that despite the spike in cases, what was done to contain and isolate those cases was of upmost importance. She expressed her satisfaction that the measures instituted at the ports of entry to protect Barbadians and all those on the island.

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