COVID-19 update and press conference – January 30, 2021. (PMO)

The public is being urged to be cooperative and honest in completing the COVID-19 Community Evaluation Survey being conducted by over 300 student volunteers.

Making this plea, was Chairman of the Cabinet’s COVID-19 sub-committee, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott, yesterday, during a COVID-19 Update from Ilaro Court.

Minister Walcott said that it had been highlighted by Infectious Disease Specialist and Head of the Isolation Facilities, Dr. Corey Forde and Medical Officer of Health at the Glebe Polyclinic, Dr. Carl Ward, that when conducting contact tracing, persons were not always forthcoming with their information; for fear of their information being made public either that is that they have a contagious illness, or fear of being sent to a quarantine or isolation facility.

Dr. Walcott explained why it was important to be truthful when completing the “seek and save” survey, “They’re [student volunteers] going to be asking questions, they are seeking to help, they’re not trying to be inquisitive or malicious, they’re just trying to help. We need that valuable information for us [Government] to try to identify the incidence of COVID in the community.

“We know we have seen the cases, but we want to go and to be pre-emptive, and to find those cases in the community, isolate them where necessary, and assist in the containment and the reduction in transmission of the disease,” Dr. Walcott explained.

In addition, Minister Walcott stressed that: “When people are not truthful, then the doctors are not able to manage the disease, perhaps as aggressively. Sometimes you will recognise that with COVID, you can go from just a slight cough in the morning to having respiratory distress by the evening. So it is absolutely important that people be truthful.”

This is especially necessary for caregivers of the elderly Dr. Walcott explained, because what a caregiver might think is just a cough or a slight cold, might actually be an early stage of respiratory distress for an elderly person.

When questioned regarding persons’ refusal to be swabbed for testing by the COVID-19 mobile medical team, Chairman of the Cabinet’s COVID-19 Sub-committee stated that: “We can only encourage them… we can cajole them, we can encourage them; but at the end of the day, that’s the individual’s decision, we can’t force you to comply [but] we certainly hope that you will accede to our requests.”

However, he did note that under the law, if a person refuses to have a test, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) can intervene “to protect the greater good in the community”. 

Also addressing issue was Attorney General, Dale Marshall, who remarked that “the CMO has the lawful authority to put a person into isolation or quarantine”.

He went on to explain why the CMO has such powers. He stated that the Government had taken into account that there might be uncooperative persons who may not want to be tested for COVID-19, and in such circumstances, the COVID-19 Directive (Order) outlines that: “If the CMO has reason to believe that any person has or may have COVID-19… the Chief Medical Officer has the lawful authority to take that person and put that person into isolation or quarantine them for medical treatment,” the Attorney General said. 

The public was assured by Minister Walcott, that the data collected will be going to the Ministry of Health and Wellness and that the student volunteers will make the “necessary declarations” as it relates to privacy when collecting personal medical information. 

sheena.forde-craigg@barbados.gov.bb

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