Government’s decision to adjust its travel protocols for visitors to the island has received support at the level of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
But, at the same time, Executive Director of that agency, Dr. Joy St. John, has “exhorted” health officials to ensure enough strategic testing was done to ensure that they captured the “inevitable introduction” of the Delta Plus variant to the island.
Dr. St. John explained that given the statistics presented by the Minister of Health and Wellness, it was difficult to maintain an argument for Government to continue “pouring” that kind of funding into testing for visitors when they were returning less than one per cent positive, at a time when there was a clear increase in transmission throughout communities.
“You need to be able to test the community…. [And] for testing so, you need to be strategic,” Dr. St. John indicated.
This was supported by Barbados’ acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anton Best, who explained that the daily average of COVID-19 cases detected in Barbados was 353, with the highest being 445, which was recorded in a single day.
“That was more than double all the positive cases that we detected at the airport from travellers – all travellers,” he said, stressing that resources were needed in communities where there was a lot of community spread.
However, he gave the assurance that health officials continued to conduct genomic surveillance to detect new variants of the virus early.
He added that while Government was seeking to bolster the island’s in-house capacity for genomic testing, samples were still sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad for analysis.
“This is something that is very, very important and this is something that we have paid very close attention to for the better part of 2021…. We are on it,” he stated.
Dr. Best also defended Barbados’ current public health and social measures designed to mitigate the spread of the disease, amid rising numbers and a growing number of deaths.
He explained that it was important to only apply public health and social measures that the society could tolerate.
“Yes, we can apply stricter restrictions specifically for COVID, being very myopic, but there will be other fallout that is going to impact us once again if you are looking at the entire health system,” the acting Chief Medical Officer said, citing economic fallout and COVID fatigue among them.
However, Dr. Best pointed out that the personal behaviour of individuals was driving the pandemic in Barbados and globally.
“If more people adhere to the public health and social measures, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene. If more people got vaccinated, we would get to the end of this. The impact of COVID would be lower,” he stated.
Dr. Best and Dr. St. John were among a team of panelists that included St. Lucia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Sharon Belmar-George, and Chairman of Grenada’s COVID-19 Health Sub-Committee, Dr. Bert Brathwaite. The discussion was moderated by COVID-19 Public Advisor, David Ellis.