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Montserrat Looks to Bolster Local Labs to Test for COVID-19 as Trinidad Closes Its Borders

The Ministry of Health & Social Services is looking at alternative methods of processing tests for the COVID-19 disease as the regional lab in Trinidad may not be available for much longer.

The ministry said Monday they collected samples from eight patients over the period Thursday March 19 and Saturday March 21, 2020, according to a release from the Government Information Unit.

A total of 33 patients have been assessed at the Flu Clinic, which was set up at the St. Peter’s Health Centre and has been in operations since last Thursday, said Director of Primary Health Care, Dr. Dorothea Hazel-Blake. “Five of those patients met the criteria for testing. That is, they were identified as high risk and displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19. Samples were collected from an additional three patients as part of the 24-hour COVID-19 Care Service established by the ministry. All suspected cases are in quarantine while we await the results”.

All eight samples were dispatched to the CARPHA Reference Laboratory on Monday March 23, 2020. The samples were transported via the Regional Security System (R.S.S) as commercial flights are unavailable. The R. S. S was established in 1982 to counter threats to the national security of the region and provides assistant to Caribbean member states in times of crisis and emergency.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sharra Greenaway–Duberry revealed however that future testing may create a challenge as Trinidad & Tobago is closing its borders as of today. “The unprecedented border closures are creating severe and unexpected challenges, the ministry is now therefore exploring other options to eliminate them and streamline the diagnostic process; such as building the on island capacity to test,” said the CMO.

In the interim, coordination with the R.S.S will continue to ensure samples are sent for testing.

The CMO indicated that the island’s lone COVID-19 patient remains in isolation and is doing well. She also emphasized the need for the public to continue to adhere to prevention and protection measures.

“Although COVID-19 infections will be mild for most, it is important that we protect our vulnerable and those most at risk of severe infection and even death. The highest risk groups include the elderly and persons living with conditions such as asthma and other respiratory ailments, and chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. By practicing good hygiene and social distancing we can drastically decrease the possible rates of infection here in Montserrat,” Dr. Greenaway-Duberry.

A reminder is also issued to the public that all persons experiencing flu-like symptoms such as fever, dry cough, sneeze, stuffy and runny nose should contact the St. Peter’s clinic by telephone at the following numbers: 491-5436 or 496- 9724. The clinic is opened daily from 9:00 am to 5:00pm. Outside those hours’ persons can receive medical attention by calling the Glendon Hospital Casualty Department at 491-2802 /491-2836/491-2552.