Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic addressing the nation on Sunday, December 20th. (PMO)

As Barbadians gear up to celebrate Christmas later this week, they have been given a sobering reminder from Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic, that they must not let their guard down.

While addressing the nation this evening, Lt. Col. Bostic said the country still faced a very real threat from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While he encouraged Barbadians to enjoy the festivities this Yuletide season, he tempered it by saying that a good Christmas would be one without any “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 behaviour, be it in our eating, driving, socialising, 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 common sense and appreciation for national responsibility,” Minister Bostic explained.

He said the majority of Barbadians and visitors have, over the last year, adhered to the guidelines and protocols which have kept the number of infections to a minimum.

He also praised frontline workers for their efforts in ensuring that there has been no local transmission of the virus or community spread, so far.

The Health Minister warned that the next “eight to 12 weeks” would be a testing time for the country but added he was confident the island would meet any challenges head on.

He pointed out that with Barbados opening its borders to air and cruise traffic, there would be an increase in visitor arrivals for the winter tourist season.  This, he said, inevitably means an increase in imported 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,” Mr. Bostic emphasised.

He shared that on Thursday, December 17, there were eight cases and another six confirmed cases on Friday, December 18 – three of which involved a single non-Barbadian family.

Additionally, Lt. Col. Bostic disclosed that as of 6:00 p.m. today, Barbados had conducted 9,991 COVID-19 PCR tests for the month of December alone, of which 46 were confirmed cases.

However, he said, Barbadians could not become complacent because of the vigilant testing being carried out. The Minister cautioned that while the country had managed the pandemic “very well”, it would only take one slip-up to undo all of its gains. He said it was only a minority who blatantly flouted the protocols and posed a major threat to the rest of the population. “I implore you to let caution and common sense prevail,” he urged.

Minister Bostic also issued a word of advice to businesses and shoppers this Christmas season.

“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 into the new year,” he cautioned.

He also appealed to hoteliers to ensure that visitors to the island adhered to the protocols, emphasising that those who were under quarantine needed to remain in quarantine until otherwise instructed by the relevant health authorities.

Lt. Col. Bostic urged hotel workers, as well, to speak up if they saw any breaches of the protocols.

“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,” he stated.

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