By Sheena Forde-Craigg
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) — The government of Barbados and the Virginia-based reference laboratory StageZero Life Sciences, have made a landmark agreement, which will offer expedited COVID-19 PCR testing for travellers to Barbados from Canada and the USA.
At a press briefing Friday, minister of tourism and international transport, Senator Lisa Cummins, head of Strategic Alliances, Don Thomson and director of the Best dos Santos Public Health Laboratory, Dr Songee Beckles, explained the benefits and process of the alliance with StageZero.
Minister Cummins noted that persons in North America have been experiencing challenges with getting not just the COVID-19 PCR test results, but getting the result back within the three days required by Barbados. Over the last few months the ministry has been working with StageZero to provide a solution to this challenge.
“This is a game-changer for Barbados. What is critical for us at this point is ensuring that we have the capability to guarantee and to work with our guests to have their test results back in time, to ensure that we continue with the brand for Barbados that we have built, safe testing to a safe destination for safe vacation, and we want to be able to maintain that.”
Thomson stated: “As a high complexity lab, StageZero tests in all states and all across Canada, and two things we do that are unique that we find many other labs don’t do, first of all we test people in their homes, we come to them. […] “And secondly we turn the results around in 24 to 48 hours, that is key, and we’ve consistently done that since we started testing back in April of this year.”
Thomson noted that PCR testing is considered the “gold standard” of COVID-19 testing, and explained the process of how to get a PCR test from StageZero Life Sciences.
A person who has booked their trip would visit www.stagezerolifesciences.com/barbados, there, they would input their trip information which will determine the date they need to have the test completed. The individual would also need to upload their passport information and a photo for verification.
Following that, a test kit would be shipped to the address submitted and a reminder sent to the individual informing them of the time of arrival for the phlebotomist. After the test has been administered, it would be collected by either FedEx or UPS and returned to StageZero, where testing would be carried out. On completion, an encrypted email of the results would be sent to the individual who would then upload the results to https://travelform.gov.bb/home.
Dr Beckles stressed that the quality of the test results is dependent upon the quality of the sample taken.
“What StageZero is offering is actually very good because we have the professional actually going to collect that sample. So we’re certain about the quality of the sample at the end of the day, which would mean that the quality of the result will also be very high. In terms of validating the tests that they do as well, we also did our due diligence in terms of finding out what testing platform they were using. Not only did we just use the information that they provided to us, but we also did our own research to see how persons are using the steps and if it’s used quite widely,” he said.
Dr Beckles also noted that the Thermo Fisher test being used by StageZero is approved by the FDA and Health Canada, but it is also used widely in many labs across the world.