Senior Medical Officer, Dr. Anton Best. (PMO)

A seismic shock to the health system is how health personnel have described the largest outbreak of COVID-19 on the island that has been linked to the December 26 – Boxing Day Bus Crawl.

This view was shared by Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Anton Best, as he provided a statistical update during a press conference on the COVID-19 situation in Barbados, and tendered an apology on behalf of Minister of Health and Wellness, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, and staff of that Ministry, for delays experienced over time.

He said: “We had systems in place that were working for many, many months, but with this massive outbreak of nearly 200 cases in one day in one 24-hour period that we detected, it really put a  significant strain on our systems, and in some cases some of our systems that were working before broke down.”

However, he noted that the Health Ministry was in the process of rebuilding and improving systems, and implementing new systems, if necessary, and working continuously to resolve issues.

Giving the statistics thus far for 2021, he said as of Friday, January 8, 1,400 tests were conducted, and of these, 23 persons were diagnosed with COVID-19 – 14 men and nine women.

Adding that 30 persons were discharged from isolation, Dr. Best stressed, however, that there were 115 tests either outstanding or pending.  Elaborating, he said the tests could be pending for more than one reason.  

“Sometimes the tests are positive, but they haven’t been validated.  And then there are other reasons for tests being pending – simply not having been conducted,” he explained.

Dr. Best said the COVID-19 cases recorded in Barbados since March 2020 were 808, with 347 being females and 461 males, and the total number of tests conducted was “just under 82,000”.  There are 428 persons in isolation across various facilities.

(Stock Photo)

“In terms of the clusters that we’re looking at, at the prison, we have 56 staff or 17 per cent of the staff population being COVID positive and 137 inmates or 18 per cent of the inmates being positive,” he disclosed.

Acknowledging that the second tests for staff and inmates had been conducted, Dr. Best noted that the Ministry only had preliminary data but assured Barbadians that when definitive data were received, the Ministry would present this tomorrow.

Additionally, he said of the prison situation: “We have 37 cases associated with this cluster in the community.  So, when we add the 137 inmates and 56 [staff], that’s the entire population of persons related to the prison, but then they are linked to 37 cases in the community.

“Related to this outbreak or cluster is the bus crawl, which has 14 cases. And then we have on the West Coast, we have 67 cases in that particular cluster. And I also have to note that there are small clusters that we have not yet fully defined, but there are many small clusters out there, contributing to the large outbreak that we experienced just over a week ago.”

The Senior Medical Officer of Health noted that overall the numbers were trending down, but warned “we’re not out of the woods yet”.  

Stating that vigorous contact tracing efforts were continuing, he added: “And we’ve made significant headway, but please appreciate that this is a very intense and laborious process, and it’s going to take us time to fully outline the clusters and the index cases and to have a solid idea as to how this outbreak started in Barbados that we did not anticipate beyond our wildest dreams.”

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