COVID-19 update and press conference – March 1, 2021. (PMO)

Health authorities have identified 11 COVID-19 hot spots in communities across Barbados.

This disclosure came from Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Kenneth George, during a press briefing and update last evening on the Ministry’s contact tracing strategies to curb the spread of the viral illness.

Emphasising that contact tracing was the main tool, next to vaccination, in suppressing the outbreak, Dr. George said intelligence gathered from teams in the field revealed a number of high risk communities. He said health officials would be going into these areas to identify and isolate primary contacts, in particular.

“And this is why we require the public’s cooperation. So, persons will be coming and asking you a few questions.  And in addition to that, we will be offering testing. We’re looking at about 11 hot spots. I don’t want to name the hot spots for many reasons because this is not about pointing fingers. This is about controlling the spread of disease.  So, we are going to work quietly in these communities,” he explained.

The Chief Medical Officer further noted that health officials had noticed a “new pattern” where a lot of the primary contacts were occurring in families.  

He added that while the disease was spreading at the community level, it was being transmitted mostly from household to household within neighbourhoods.

One of the strategies the Ministry has implemented is taking persons out of their homes based on their level of risk and placing them in designated quarantine hotels to reduce the spread of the virus within families.

So far, 40 such individuals who live in high risk communities and in crowded homes have been placed in quarantine. Dr. George divulged that 16 of those individuals who are from a single household have since tested positive for COVID-19.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George, speaking during yesterday’s press conference to provide an update about COVID-19. (PMO)

“So, what the Ministry of Health is attempting to do is to put yet another strategy that builds on the Seek and Save [initiative], that strengthens the work that Seek and Save has done to identify those high risk communities; identify individuals in those high risk communities who have symptoms and sample a section of the population that do not have symptoms, so we have some form of representation and get those persons into treatment and care,” Dr. George stated.

He pointed out that the Best-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory had the capacity to facilitate the testing of those picked up in the contact tracing effort since it was currently up-to-date and had the ability to process up to 2,000 samples per day.

He added the aim was to increase testing “to get a good feel as to the level of COVID in the population”.

To bolster the effort, Dr. George said the Ministry would be bringing on four additional persons who were well trained in public health and epidemiology. Additionally, it has scaled up the number of persons in the field doing contact tracing and has identified a team to conduct swabbing.

The CMO urged Barbadians to further assist in the contact tracing initiative by remaining at home for the next six to eight weeks when possible and by keeping in their bubbles.  

He proffered the view that COVID-19 could be around for another 12 to 18 months and therefore the public could not let its guard down.

He pointed out that Barbados has dealt with infectious diseases in recent years. “But this current COVID environment is one which has stretched the Government’s ability to respond, the Ministry of Health’s ability to respond, and therefore, this is the pandemic that requires a much greater response from the public at large,” he emphasised.

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