Ongoing efforts by the health sector and other entities to stave off the coronavirus have come in for praise from Minister of Health and Wellness, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic.
The Minister, while briefing media on Tuesday on the outcomes of an emergency meeting of CARICOM Health Ministers on Monday to discuss the coronavirus, stressed that he was happy to report “that we in Barbados are on the ball in terms of what we are doing”.
He said: “I would like to thank all those members, staff of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Immigration and all of the other departments that have been working, for the proactive manner in which we have been dealing with this situation because we have been on this from the time it started. And, what am I talking about? These institutions, including PAHO, called for … increased surveillance at ports of entry; and we have initiated that action and that action will be strengthened, from today and tomorrow, with an increase in personnel, medical port health personnel at the airport because this is a national effort.”
Explaining that it represented part of the continuous process of keeping Barbadians informed about what was happening worldwide, and how the country was addressing the issue to keep Barbados safe and secure, Mr. Bostic added: “It obviously is an effort that requires all Barbadians to participate in terms of personal hygiene and doing everything to protect themselves, and also the various agencies and stakeholders operating in a collaborative effort to try to stop this virus from entering our shores.”
The purpose of the CARICOM emergency meeting was to give regional institutions responsible for the management of the particular situation the opportunity to make presentations to the Ministers of Health, to see exactly where they were in terms of preparation, and to offer any guidance to the Ministers.
Presentations also came from the Pan American Health Organization, Caribbean Public Health Agency, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security, key institutions assisting all of the territories to manage the process.
These presentations dealt with protocols that were established regionally in terms of dealing with other epidemics such as SARS, MERS and H1N1 and they also addressed the adaptation of these protocols to suit the coronavirus.
Minister Bostic noted that there were deliberations after the meeting and Health Ministers received some briefings from members of the Florida Cruise Association.
There was also a submission by the People’s Republic of China from persons dealing with the virus in China, who presented information they considered helpful for the Ministers to manage what they are doing.
The Health and Wellness Minister further acknowledged that the island had established quarantine facilities, as well as an Isolation Centre which the international medical organizations have been calling for. Barbados’ capacity is also enhanced by the Best Dos Santos Laboratory.
“Those things have been provided,” he stressed while explaining that the quarantine facilities were to monitor people and not patients because these are people who do not present at the airport with symptoms, but because of the degree of risk, and based on the part of the world they are coming from, have to be monitored.
Of the Isolation Centre, located and managed by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at the Enmore Complex, Minister Bostic stressed this was intended for persons with symptoms and confirmed cases.
He also noted that the Best Dos Santos Laboratory would be boosted within a couple of weeks, with the provision of the necessary kits “to be able to do testing for this virus which will give us even greater coverage”.
These efforts, Lt. Col. Bostic said, were part of a long-term plan to address the coronavirus should it arise in Barbados and how to deal with its spread, which his Ministry had been working on for the last several weeks.