Second COVID-19 Testing Lab is Operational

Press Release from The Premier of Bermuda
19 April, 2020

Premier and Minister of Finance, the Hon. David Burt

The Government today announced that two COVID-19 testing labs are now operational, providing the island with the immediate ability to conduct more than 200 daily tests.

The two labs are Helix Laboratory, which is operated by Dr. Desiree Spriggs and the second, the Bermuda Government Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory (MDL) came on line this weekend under the supervision of Dr. Carika Weldon. The two labs, when fully staffed, can run over 900 tests a day. Both facilities will work within the strict public health guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health.

Premier the Hon. David Burt, JP, MP stated, “Dr. Spriggs and the Helix team are to be commended for their work pioneering local testing in Bermuda. To expand our testing ability, the new lab will complement the work already being done by Helix. Both labs are operational and have test kits and additional supplies. Bermuda currently has the test kits to complete 800 more tests.

“Let me speak to Bermuda’s COVID-19 testing capability and what we can expect in the coming weeks. There are currently 10,000 swabs in Bermuda, this allows us to swab 10,000 people.  2,000 additional testing kits will arrive in Bermuda tomorrow – 20 April 2020. 10,000 testing kits purchased from the Cayman Islands will arrive on the airbridge flight from London on Friday, 24 April. Additional tests kit parts, which were secured by Dr. Weldon, arrived with her on the airbridge flight on 6 April. The balance of the shipment, which will give the island the ability to complete 40,000 additional tests, will begin arriving on the flight from London this coming Friday.

“The bottom line is Bermuda has sufficient testing kits and swabs to fully execute our aggressive testing strategy. This next week we will  focus on testing the right people, including healthcare professionals, our vulnerable in seniors’ homes, contacts of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 and our essential workers.

“Thanks to the hard work of the team at the Ministry of Health we are now able to dramatically increase the number of people who can be tested in Bermuda for COVID-19.  The increased testing capabilities means our testing throughput is enhanced as we seek to combat this disease and gradually reopen our economy. Testing is key to reopening our economy, and we now have the capacity to test as many persons as we will need to.”

The Premier continued, “The Ministry of Health, has developed exit protocols for those who are housed in the government quarantine facilities as their period of quarantine ends. Out of an abundance of caution, everyone who is currently in a government quarantine facility has been tested for COVID-19, ahead of them returning to their respective homes. If, after being tested, a person is found to be confirmed positive with COVID-19, they will be isolated appropriately.

“Throughout the day today, 190 samples were taken from individuals who are in six government quarantine facilities.

“The MDL will complete the tests and supply the results to the Ministry of Health this evening.  Once the test results are received, each person will be given their results by a public health officer, in confidence.

“As of 3pm today, there are no new test results to report. The numbers on coronavirus.gov.bm remain unchanged. The Minister of Health will provide the results of these 190 tests and any additional results during the press conference tomorrow.”

The Premier concluded, “There are many people who must be thanked for working overnight and throughout the day today to quickly and efficiently collect the samples. First, Dr. Kimesha Notice and her team at the Ministry of Health, together with private sector doctors and dentists who stepped forward to assist with the process. Thanks also to the Ministry of National Security’s Disaster Risk Reduction Mitigation (DRRM) team for coordinating residents in the quarantine facility so they could all be tested. Thank you also to the teams at Public Works for ensuring the construction required at the second lab meets WHO/PAHO standards and was completed to open today.

“We have many people working hard to win our battle with COVID-19. To all the Minsters, public officers and members of the public who worked to get the second lab up and completed the exercise to collect 190 samples in one day; and to the technicians currently processing the tests, I am humbled by your dedication. Today is a milestone in Bermuda’s fight against COVID-19 and I look forward to updating the public further at tomorrow’s press conference.”