PHILIPSBURG–Prime Minister and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Chairperson Silveria Jacobs delivered a bit of good news on Thursday evening. She announced that testing for COVID-19 will be ramped up as the country now has the ability to test locally.
However, she cautioned that with more testing, there is a possibility that the number of positive cases will increase. She said more persons who are in self-isolation and are showing symptoms will now be tested.
Jacobs said she had been informed that the local laboratories in Dutch St. Maarten – Health Care Laboratory St. Maarten (HCLS) and national lab St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS) – had been cleared for testing of suspected COVID-19 cases as of April 1. Results of tests submitted before 3:00pm will be available the same day.
“As a result of the ability to test locally, we will be increasing testing samples. This will most likely result in an increased number of confirmed cases,” Jacobs said.
She had said on Wednesday evening that many testing kits were not available in the country, but Finance Minister Ardwell Irion had assured that funding will be made available for testing kits, if any can be found on the market. Government guaranteed funds for testing kits and HCLS will not charge government any additional fees for its personnel to conduct tests.
St. Maarten previously only had the ability to test for 19 other strains of cold and flu viruses. HCLS – a private laboratory – was recently vetted as a local testing agent for COVID-19. This private lab is located in Cole Bay.