Minister of Health and Wellness, Ian Gooding-Edghill. (FP)

Minister of Health and Wellness, Ian Gooding-Edghill’s statement on the proposed changes to Emergency Management Directive Number 4.

Good afternoon to the fellow Barbadians and members of the media.

I am pleased to announce that the current outlook of the COVID Pandemic in Barbados remains optimistic for the future.  Despite changes in the scientific factors that guide our daily decision making, infections are trending downwards. The positivity rate is 10-12 per cent over the last week, down from a high one month ago of 26 per cent. This tells us that approximately 88 per cent of all persons tested on a daily basis do not have COVID, an improvement on the 83 per cent rate that existed two weeks ago.

The R effective, the ability of the virus to spread has however increased from 0.71 recorded two weeks ago, to 0.89. This tells us that the risk of transmission is still a problem.

Case incidence continues to decline but at a slower rate. The seven-day cumulative cases at March 9, currently stands at 332 cases per 100,000 population. This represents a 15 per cent decline over the previous week. Two weeks ago, the seven-day cumulative cases stood at 514 per 100,000 population.

The doubling time which measures the growth rate continues to increase which, once again, confirms the slowing of the growth of the outbreak.

The outbreak at the Geriatric Hospital has been brought to an end and there are only a few new positive cases reported from Her Majesty’s Prison Dodd’s and the Psychiatric Hospital. The occupancy at Harrison’s Point is approximately 40 per cent of its capacity. We, however, continue to monitor the situation at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital which has reported an increase in the numbers and severity of cases of persons with NCDs and their complications.

In light of the encouraging improvement in the national COVID situation, the following relaxation of COVID restrictions will come into effect on Monday, March 14, in the new COVID Directive:

  • Night Clubs can restart. The requirements will be proof of vaccine certificate or a negative rapid antigen test for patrons within a day before entry. The COVID Monitoring Unit must be informed prior to the opening of nights clubs.
  • Karaoke will be allowed with three feet distancing and sanitization, singers must stay six feet away from the main group of patrons.
  • Pleasure craft, party cruises and private boats will continue to operate at 100 per cent capacity with proof of vaccine status or a negative rapid antigen test result for patrons within a day before entry.
  • Party cruises will be required to inform the COVID Monitoring Unit prior to each event and have a member of the COVID Monitoring Unit on board with the cost borne by the organizers.

Sports

Following meetings with the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Community Empowerment, I am now satisfied that the phased reintroduction of sporting events can take place. The return to sporting activity will be gradual and purposeful. Sports will return based on the risk involved.

Accordingly, the following requirements will apply for indoor and outdoor contact and non-contact sports:

Outdoor non-contact sports no requirements for vaccine or rapid antigen test for participants, e.g. cricket, hockey, football and swimming.

Indoor non-contact – Vaccination or rapid antigen test for participants. Special consideration will be given to squash and indoor hand-ball.

Indoor Contact – Vaccination and rapid antigen test for participants.

Outdoor Contact – Vaccination or rapid antigen test for participants.

The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment will set out the relevant guidelines and protocols for the safe reopening of sports. These protocols will include what is required for normal practice sessions and competitions.

The National Primary School Athletic Championships (NAPSAC), and Barbados Secondary School Athletic Championships (BSSAC) will be allowed.

It should be borne in mind that any sport that requires special approval may only proceed after official permission has been given by the COVID Monitoring Unit or the Chief Medical Officer.

Horse racing fans will once again be able to enjoy the pleasure of horse racing in person as spectators, with fans being allowed to return to the Garrison Savannah in general.

On the matter of cricket, the vaccination only policy for the upcoming test match at the Kensington Oval will apply to all stands.  No rapid antigen testing will be required for the Party Stand at Kensington Oval.

I am pleased to share with fellow Barbadians the improvement in the national COVID environment. An improvement that was only made possible through their overall cooperation and discipline. However, we still have a way to go and, in this regard, I am confident that Barbadians will continue to appreciate that their sense and exhibition of personal responsibility will matter highly.

Please be assured that we will institute policies that are intended to redound to the safety, security and overall benefit of the whole society. It is useful to remind persons that COVID cases give rise to COVID cases. Therefore, protecting yourself and adhering to existing protocols are still essential together with vaccination, particularly with a booster dose remaining extremely effective in preventing hospitalization and death.

Of course, as human beings, we will have the tendency to be more relaxed in this more liberal situation. But, we will do ourselves and the nation a huge favour of responsibility by not giving in to the temptation to play fast and loose in our daily activities.

Thank you.

Ministry of Health and Wellness

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