U.S. Ambassador to Barbados Linda Taglialatela toured the Best-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory on Friday, October 2, to gain firsthand insight into its lifesaving work. The laboratory, completed in 2018 through a US$6 million investment by the U.S. Government, conducts all of Barbados’ COVID-19 testing.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kenneth George and Laboratory Director Songee Beckles guided Ambassador Taglialatela and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Laboratory Advisor Giselle Guevara through the facility. In addition to its role in the COVID-19 response, the laboratory also contributes to the testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS, Dengue, Zika, and other diseases to enhance the region’s health security.
“Barbados has done an extraordinary job,” Ambassador Taglialatela said when asked about the local COVID-19 response. “Barbados has an edge over other countries because you have this state-of-the-art laboratory. They can test swabs in 45 minutes to two hours. They are very capable of identifying cases relatively quickly and being able then to do either the contact tracing through the airline passengers who arrive or through any contact they’ve had with other people.”
Laboratory Director Songee Beckles commented, “The U.S. government continues to help us. They help us to buy a lot of supplies. We only talk about test kits, but there are a lot of other little things that go into actually producing the test results.”
The CDC is providing US$3 million to the Caribbean, including US$400,000 to Barbados, specifically for the COVID response to fund infection prevention, laboratory reagents, and improvements to data management at the laboratory and at Harrisons Point. This support adds to the US$2.2 million previously announced U.S. health funding in May to prevent and control infectious diseases in health facilities, build laboratory capacity, and support contact tracing.
The United States remains firmly committed to being the single largest health and humanitarian donor for both long-term capacity development and emergency response in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.