COVID-19 update and press conference – Saturday, January 23, 2021. (PMO)

Business places should continue to follow the guidelines and protocols implemented by the Health Ministry since the discovery of the first COVID-19 case here, last year.

This was made clear by Senior Medical Officer, Dr. Anton Best, as he spoke about the appropriate responses at this time, when businesses houses were closing temporarily on learning of a positive case associated with their establishment.

Speaking at the press conference chaired by COVID-19 Communications Coordinator, Ambassador Elizabeth Thompson, at Ilaro Court, he said at the start of the National COVID-19 response the Ministry had recognised the need for guidelines and protocols to guide how the business sector should operate. So, it had developed guidelines for the construction industry, food establishments, bars and places of entertainment.

“We also developed cleaning protocols, and other industries were covered under the emergency management protocols. We didn’t think that there was a need to be specific for all of the industries because what we realised is that the basic tenets of prevention of COVID essentially would have cut across all of the industries.

“So, the basic tenets are the temperature checks that we are familiar with upon entering a business; customer logs for contact tracing, where you write your name, email address, in some cases and telephone number, when you’re entering restaurants, for instance,” he stated.

“So, the basic tenets are the temperature checks that we are familiar with upon entering a business; customer logs for contact tracing, where you write your name, email address, in some cases and telephone number, when you’re entering restaurants, for instance.”

Senior Medical Officer, Dr. Anton Best

While noting there was also the very powerful, but very simple message of ‘Hands, Face and Space’, he said it was one simple phrase with three powerful words.

“Hands – good hand hygiene is critical; Face [you] must always wear a face mask, and Space, physical distancing and social distancing. And this is a message that we’re not going to ever get tired of seeing, or we should never get tired of hearing it because this is critical for the prevention and control of COVID-19 in Barbados,” Dr. Best emphasised.

Further outlining what businesses should do in the event of a case of COVID-19, whether as an employee or a customer, he noted that the Ministry had a very systematic approach to contact tracing, and there was a differentiation between primary contacts and secondary contacts. 

(Stock Photo)

He said: “This is very important, because what we saw happening was that a lot of people were reacting based on being a secondary contact, and then going off and getting tested, or quarantining and not under the guidance of the Ministry of Health and public health officials who would have identified two primary contacts.”

Reiterating that primary contacts were persons, “once identified or quarantined and tested for COVID-19”, the Senior Medical Officer stressed the key message for businesses was that prevention was absolutely critical. 

Calling on persons to avoid panic, the automatic closure of businesses, as well as the notion that all employees in a business needed to be tested, he said everything was to be guided by the Ministry of Health’s protocols, and its approach to contact tracing.

Dr. Best, who also pointed out that there was a distinction between risk to employees in a business and a risk to its customers, said: “The risk from customers is relatively low, and I say that because customers come into a business for only a brief period of time, and they leave.”

“A primary contact is defined by space. So, within a six-foot radius and time, and usually it’s 15 minutes or more for someone to be determined to be a primary contact, in the absence of wearing a mask.”

Senior Medical Officer, Dr. Anton Best

Explaining this in the context of the definition of a primary contact, he added: “A primary contact is defined by space. So, within a six-foot radius and time, and usually it’s 15 minutes or more for someone to be determined to be a primary contact, in the absence of wearing a mask. So, if you think about it in a business space the persons who are there for the longest are actually the employees of the business. So, when we talk about the strategies that govern a business place in terms of COVID prevention. Yes, we focus a lot on the customers, but we also have to focus on what the employees do.

“And there’s another dimension to what employees do and that other dimension is what happens before they come to work; what happens when they leave; what happens when they return to the community. And that is why it’s important that all of us remind ourselves of the key actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is not just what happens when you’re in a business. It’s what happens when you’re doing all other activities, whether you’re at work, or doing other activities.”

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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