COVID-19 update and question and answer session – January 04, 2021. (PMO)

While there is local transmission of COVID-19 in Barbados, there is no evidence to suggest there is community spread, says Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George.

He was speaking during a briefing last night to update the country on the progress being made in the fight against the viral illness, following a recent spike in cases.

The Acting Chief Medical Officer explained that there was a difference between local transmission and community spread.

“In Barbados, there is local transmission (where the source of the transmission is known). Yes, we use the word clusters because clusters are small groups which we, based on contact tracing, have said they are connected. We, at this point in time, do not have information to suggest that there is community spread. What community spread indicates is that the contact tracing no longer is able to contain and identify contacts. We have not reached there yet.  So, we have no community spread….

“Community spread is where your efforts to contact trace are outstripped and you don’t have control over your spread in your population, therefore, you have community spread – you’ve lost your capacity to trace,” he explained.

Dr. George said the Ministry of Health and Wellness had almost 100 “tracers” working on the ground, but was looking to increase that number on recommendation of the University of the West Indies, which suggested a complement of 150 tracers to mitigate any threat of community spread.  

He added that the Ministry was currently investigating and conducting tracing for three clusters – the large cluster associated with the bus crawl and two smaller clusters on the West Coast.

“Some of the clusters came out of a group in the West Coast and these clusters require the contact tracing team to fan out.  It works on leads and once we have those leads, we go out and test those individuals and this is what contact tracing is about. We update; we issue surrounding clusters on a daily basis, and those are shared with the public health team,” he outlined.

Chairman of the Cabinet Sub-committee, Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott, shed further light on the clusters on the West Coast of the island during the press conference. (PMO)

The Acting Chief Medical Officer said once the index case was identified they were tested, as well as their immediate contacts.

Chairman of the Cabinet Sub-committee, Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott, shed further light on the clusters on the West Coast.  

He said there was one cluster with which 19 persons were associated and the majority of them had been tested. Additionally, he noted there was also another cluster with four persons.

“There are some other possible clusters, which are being investigated. I say possible clusters where you have one person who came from St. Vincent and he turned out to be positive. He came with a negative test, and after a few days, when he was repeat tested, he was positive. He had come from a very low-risk country at the time. He went to a number of places in Barbados and a number of contacts were identified; some of them were tested and placed in quarantine. Thus far, I am happy to report there are only 11 test results outstanding as it relates to that investigation, and he remains the only person who is positive.

“There is a similar one, a possible cluster, which is also being investigated on the West Coast. Again, a number of persons have been tested after contact tracing and there remains only one positive. And there are three outstanding test results. So, there are three active clusters, including the one associated with the bus crawl, and two possible clusters,” said Senator Walcott, who disclosed that there were an additional 13 cases associated with the bus crawl.

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