The government is moving to increase this country’s capacity to conduct more timely testing for the Covid-19 virus as confirmed cases spike and the demands for exit testing increase.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves spoke on the issue in his address to the nation last night amid the spiraling Covid-19 situation in this country.

Dr Gonsalves said the capacity of the Molecular Laboratory will be enhanced significantly with the introduction of an automated extraction machine which is already here.  He said that, additionally, his government will be formally approaching private-run laboratories to have them process exit screenings for regional and overseas travel in a move to reduce the burden on the public lab.

“The testing capacity at our molecular laboratory has been challenged by the increased demands placed upon it by the increased volume of PCR samples due to the steep rise in the number of local cases and the significant increase in exit screenings required for Canada, the United Kingdom, the USA and Barbados,” he told the nation.

Dr Gonsalves said that persons travelling overseas will be required to pay the fee to the private sector facilities for the exit screenings and that those laboratories will set their fee.

Dr Gonsalves further said that significant resources are being provided for additional storage for Covid-19 supplies and for containerized expansion of the Molecular Laboratory ahead of a planned physical expansion. He said the resources are available for immediate use and that more professional and technical persons are being recruited for the lab in addition to those who were recently recruited.

“The team at the molecular laboratory, led by Elliot Samuel, has been doing a wonderful job for our country. They go way beyond the call of duty professionally, selflessly and in accord with the highest ethical standards. We thank them.

Thus far, the lab has carried out some 24,705 tests for Covid-19 – a commendable number absolutely and comparatively,” he said.

Dr Gonsalves said the main aim is to enhance the number and quality of nurses and doctors in the healthcare system and to assist in combatting Covis-19. He said there were dozens of such personnel recruited and positions filled last year.

“Currently, we are recruiting a further 23 nurses, and we will recruit more. Thankfully, we are training many more at the nursing division of our community college. Our nurses and nursing assistants, overwhelmingly, have been extraordinary in their devotion to their patients, professionally-sound and possessed of humane values of the highest quality.

“Those engaged specifically in the fight against Covid-19 have been phenomenal. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude, and we thank them sincerely,” Dr Gonsalves told the nation.