Barbados’ COVID-19 situation is “under control and getting better”.
This assessment came today from Minister of Health and Wellness, Ian Gooding-Edghill, as he participated in a COVID-19 Update and Press Conference with a number of health officials, and Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley.
As a result of the improvement, Mr. Gooding-Edghill said there would be a number of changes to the new Emergency Management (COVID-19) (Curfew) Directive, which would come into effect on Monday, February 28.
The Minister outlined them as:
- Wedding receptions will be permitted in accordance with the protocols; dancing at weddings will be allowed, and there will be no restriction on the number of persons attending weddings, subject to the physical distancing requirements.
- The provision that no person shall consume food or drink inside a bar or rum shop will be removed.
- The work from home requirement will be removed.
- On public service vehicles, standing passengers will be allowed as specified and according to the vehicle’s carrying capacity.
- The Ministry of Health and Wellness is no longer recommending that business houses, churches and retail shops record the contact information of patrons entering their establishments. However, hand sanitisation and temperature checks must continue.
- There is to be no limitation to the number of persons who can gather for worship, but the requirement for the three-feet spacing, hand sanitising and mask wearing will remain. These same conditions will apply to funerals.
Mr. Gooding-Edghill stressed that personal responsibility continues to be critical to officials maintaining control of the COVID-19 situation and reducing the positivity rate.
“We are not yet into safe harbour, but we must maintain that spirit of cooperation and responsibility, so ably demonstrated by all Barbadians…. The positivity rate is now at 17.5 per cent, down from a high of 26 per cent four weeks ago, and…the ability of the virus to spread is below one, at 0.72 per cent.
“In addition, the seven-day cumulative cases, currently standing at 514 per 100,000 population is trending downwards…. During the last four days, February 22 to the 25, the positivity rate averaged 17 per cent. This tells us that 83 per cent of all persons tested on a daily basis do not have COVID, [and this is] an improvement of the 75 per cent rate that existed two weeks ago,” he stressed.
The Health Minister said the recent reopening of schools had been a relatively smooth process, with no cases being reported to the Chief Medical Officer for investigation.
He attributed this to all the stakeholders in education, including parents, and gave the assurance that his Ministry would continue to take “a steady but cautious approach”, always taking the prevailing public health situation into account, as the country moves towards a new normal in a COVID environment.
During his presentation, Mr. Gooding-Edghill disclosed that based on the Emergency Operations Committee’s direction, the Ministry of Health and Wellness had decided to change the testing protocols. Therefore, he said, Rapid Antigen Tests taken within one day of arrival in Barbados would be accepted.
“This is expected to improve compliance by visitors. The Rapid Antigen Tests are now being standardised as an entry requirement by many countries, including those in the region such as Jamaica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and beyond our region – in the United States of America, with Canada and the UK set to change their policy within days.
“Also, nasal swabs and mid-turbinate swabs will be permitted, in addition to the nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs. These measures will allow visitors greater ease and more seamless movement through our air and seaports. In transit passengers who have a negative rapid antigen or a negative PCR test, will no longer be tested at the Grantley Adams International Airport,” he stated.
However, the Health Minister emphasised that self-administered swabs, shallow nasal swabs and saliva tests would not be accepted.
He said the port health management and COVID teams were doing an “excellent job” in detecting infection at the borders. He disclosed that of the 16,002 positive cases detected in Barbados in January, 300 travellers were identified at the border, representing a risk of 1.9 per cent.
“Up to February 22, of the 9,204 positive cases recorded, 75 cases were detected at the border, which represents a risk factor of 0.8 per cent. These positive cases are captured at our entry ports and are not able to contribute to our incidents of positive cases since they are immediately isolated,” Mr. Gooding-Edghill outlined.