With Barbados about to return to receiving commercial flights since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Health and Wellness, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, is confident in the island’s ability to manage any new cases of the virus.
He said Government’s existing COVID-19 protocols, which were developed with the assistance of experts, were “strong”, adding that there was no need for adjustments, at this time.
The Health Minister, however, pointed out Government was closely monitoring international developments and was prepared to make changes if necessary, stating: “This is what we have been doing for the past several months, adjusting to developing situations.”
Minister Bostic was responding to questions from the media on the status of the island’s COVID-19 preparations, in light of the upsurge in cases in one of the main source markets, the United States, at a recent tour of the site for the expanded Accident and Emergency Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
“There will be cases, and we’ve had five repatriated cases, that’s not an issue. We are stronger than we were before; we have a lot more experience. We have more at our disposal to deal with whatever comes,” the Minister assured, highlighting the improved institutional facilities for quarantine and isolation, enhanced testing capacity, and greater support from the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners and the private health sector.
When asked about Barbados’ capacity to effectively quarantine and isolate patients, should there be an influx of cases, he explained that authorities have already discussed this, and were not “holding ourselves slave to any figures because it’s a comprehensive situation”.
Minister Bostic further stated: “We know the capacity plans that we have. There are also contingency plans to utilise other facilities, if that becomes necessary, but all of that would be taken into account as the situation unfolds.”
He added that in the event passengers test positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Barbados, there would be strict adherence to the established international protocols of rigorous contact tracing and the quarantine of individuals who shared the flight.
The Health Minister also sought to allay concerns about the possibility of a lockdown should the island record newly imported cases.
“Going back to the initial stages, we will watch what happens. We know our capacity. If and when we get some cases, that will not trigger a lockdown, as we did not even lockdown when we had our first 10 to 15 cases.”
Stressing that this island’s borders were never closed, Minister Bostic maintained Government’s position that it was doing all that was possible to stabilise the economy, and reassured that measures were in place to mitigate any public health risks.
“The COVID-19 pandemic presents us with a three-dimensional threat: health, societal and economic … and it is the economic threat that will destabilise our response to the social and health threat. So, that is why we are doing what we are doing,” Minister Bostic explained.
Currently, there are no active cases of the viral illness in the island, since the first two cases were announced on March 16. All of the individuals who were in isolation and quarantine were discharged on June 24.
According to the latest COVID-19 dashboard, the number of recorded cases stand at 97, with seven deaths. Authorities have conducted 7,934 tests to date.