Fellow Barbadians, residents and friends of Barbados, I speak to you this evening, at the start of the traditional countdown to Christmas and the festivities associated with it. I am fortunate to have lived and experienced quite a few score and more Christmases in Barbados, and they were all memorable.
2020, I expect, will be no different. But what is memorable? What is enjoyable? What, in our opinion, is a “good Christmas”?
For me, in this year 2020, a good Christmas will be about knowing that we all partook and shared in the festivities, without major negative incident. And what, at Christmas 2020, do I mean by “negative incident”?
First, it would be a breach of protocols in our management or handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. It would also be dangerous, selfish or reckless behavior; be it in our eating, driving, socializing or interaction with others.
So, I wish from the outset to establish, that we can all have a Good Christmas season, but our approach must be tempered with commonsense and appreciation for national responsibility.
Over the last 12 months we have all been confined and constrained as we faced the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to rage throughout the world.
Throughout this period, fellow Barbadians, you have been mindful of the threats and risks involved with this pandemic. By following of the guidelines and protocols you have helped to ensure that to date we have managed to keep the level of infections to a minimum.
Although we have been fortunate not to have local transmission or community spread of COVID-19 in Barbados so far, we have lost 7 precious souls in the fight. I must thank and congratulate all front-line personnel for their continued sterling contribution in this effort. You have indeed gone the extra mile in ensuring the safety and security of the Barbadian Public. My heartfelt congratulations to you all.
The next 8 to 12 weeks are expected to be a testing time for us all, but I am confident that we as a nation shall continue to successfully face any challenge we meet.
“Throughout this period, fellow Barbadians, you have been mindful of the threats and risks involved with this pandemic. By following of the guidelines and protocols you have helped to ensure that to date we have managed to keep the level of infections to a minimum.”Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt. Col Jeffrey Bostic
With the opening of our borders to air and cruise traffic and the accompanying increase in visitor arrivals for the winter tourist season, it is expected that our surveillance and testing will pick up more cases. We must continue to be ever vigilant and not drop our guard. It is therefore important that every Barbadian plays his or her part and cooperate with public health officials so as to ensure that we do not have local or community spread, especially during the Yuletide season.
The measures that we have been reminding you of from the onset of the pandemic are as relevant now as they were then. They include wearing of facemasks in public, hand sanitizing and maintaining physical distancing. We will continue to enhance surveillance, contact tracing, laboratory testing and public education. We will also continue to monitor and treat those in our care.
The introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine gives us great hope for the future and the Ministry of Health and Wellness remains committed to having equitable and timely distribution of vaccines in Barbados when they become available.
I wish to thank our strategic partners, including the Ministry of Tourism, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, the Pan American Health Organization, the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Barbados Defence Force, Barbados Association Medical Practitioners, Barbados Nurses Association and the Cave Hill Campus of the UWI for their tireless efforts and contributions. We look forward to the continuation of these strong partnerships in the new year and beyond.
As we get set to commence this week of Christmas preparations, I urge each of you to be on your guard. Already in the past 24 hours we have heard of eight new cases. And, as Minister of Health and Wellness, I have the authority to notify you that already today we have confirmed six additional cases. Three of these involving a single non-Barbadian family. There are potential developments related to that particular series of screenings, and these will be relayed to you, if the situation warrants.
What this tells us, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that COVID-19 is under control in Barbados — but it has not been eradicated. COVID-19 has not been eradicated anywhere in the world. It is still a global pandemic!
We do not have community spread in Barbados and our number of cases per capita is quite low, when compared to other countries in the region, the hemisphere and the international community. As of 6 pm today, Barbados would have conducted 9,991 COVID-19 PCR
Tests for December alone, of which 46 were confirmed cases.
But this must not be a basis for us to take our eyes off the prize. The prize in this instance, is the preservation of life and maintenance of good health. To date, Barbados has managed its encounter and experience with COVID-19 very well. But it takes only one slip up or mishap to create an unsavory situation.
While the majority of Barbadians and visitors have complied with the regulations and protocols, there have been some who have deliberately chosen not to do so. This small minority remains a large threat to us all and I implore you to let caution and common sense prevail.
“The measures that we have been reminding you of from the onset of the pandemic are as relevant now as they were then. They include wearing of facemasks in public, hand sanitizing and maintaining physical distancing. We will continue to enhance surveillance, contact tracing, laboratory testing and public education. We will also continue to monitor and treat those in our care.”Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt. Col Jeffrey Bostic
Do not overdo in your preparations this week. Business operators, do not force more people into your stores, simply because you need the business. Shoppers, do not remove your masks or force yourself into crowded situations, merely to get that curtain rod or the perfect cut of pork, Bajan lamb or beef. Your family would appreciate it more if you are safe and well on Christmas Day and into the New Year.
And while I am at it, I want to say a special word to hoteliers. Tourism is your business, and we need you to play your part — but in more ways than one. While you have attracted and welcomed visitors to our shores, please pull your weight and make sure they respect and adhere to our protocols.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness cannot have eyes and ears everywhere. We need you as partners to pull your weight to ensure minimal, if not zero, breaches of our protocol regulations. Quarantine is quarantine. There is nothing ambiguous about the word. Persons who are in quarantine, should remain in quarantine until the relevant authority says otherwise. Hotel workers, similarly — if you see something, please say something!
In the final analysis, we are all in this together!
So, as we gear up for the heightened period ahead, I take this opportunity to wish all Barbadians, at home and abroad, and all visitors sharing this experience with us, a truly relaxing, yet healthy and enjoyable Christmas season and a bright and safe 2021.
God bless you all.
Minister of Health and Wellness, The Hon. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic