Government is making some progress in revising its Safe Zones Directive.
Minister of Health and Wellness, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, stated this during a COVID-19 update from Ilaro Court, this afternoon.
Before he spoke about the directive, Lt. Col. Bostic shared a few statistics on the COVID-19 situation in Barbados. He reported that the positivity rate had dropped to “about 15.9 per cent”, and “although the number of deaths had increased, our case fatality rate at the moment is about 1.35 per cent, and to put that in perspective, the global case fatality rate is between 0.9 per cent and 7.6 per cent”.
Explaining the rationale for the implementation of the Safe Zones Policy, the Minister pointed out that it is a necessary national imperative for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the Delta variant and its impact, for two reasons.
“One, our health care facilities are overwhelmed, and by health care I mean all, both public and private. If you we were in a situation for example, where in our efforts to fight COVID we could not do a lot of the other things or provide a lot of the other health care services to the general public, that then would be a significant problem.
“Secondly, our already stretched human resources. This for us is something that we have to be very, very, very careful with, and why? Because if we get outbreaks in institutions that involve large numbers of staff, then we are going to be in significant problems, and so, in terms of the Safe Zones Policy, let’s say for public health care institutions, what we are seeking to do is to try to ensure that we provide a safe place for those people who have to work with each other, as well as a safe place for patients and clients within those institutions,” Minister Bostic emphasised.
He pointed out that as a result of some stakeholders, including the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) and the Barbados Nursing Association, having some concerns with the Safe Zone Policy disseminated on November 6, such as the provision of testing facilities and tests for the various sectors, he brought the issues raised to Cabinet “to seek some direction and some guidance” as to the way forward.
Minister Bostic said on Friday, a meeting was convened with stakeholders and major players to go through the legislation, “line by line”, to address those concerns, and although some persons were unable to attend the meeting, significant progress was made in addressing some of the concerns, and it would continue to be a work in progress, which will include input from trade unions.
The Health Minister stated that the meetings “will happen over the next few days until we are able to get something that has the buy in of the stakeholders, … so that at the end of the day, we are all on the same page”.
President of BAMP, Dr. Lynda Williams, speaking on the organisation’s stance on the Safe Zone Policy, emphasised: “Our primary interest is the public’s health and the health and safety of the medical fraternity. We are thankful to be able to express our concerns and make our recommendations to Government. We believe that for public health measures to work, people must accept them and understand them whether it is the general public, employees, unions [and] everyone, and so we are grateful for the continuing consultative process with all parties.”
She continued: “We are now satisfied that this legislation was not intended to, and does not bar any patient from attending healthcare, and that vaccinated or unvaccinated health care will be available to all.”
Dr. Williams stressed that the way out of the COVID-19 pandemic is through vaccination, testing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions.
“Vaccination is a major tool, along with the other non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as hand sanitisation, social distancing, and also the wearing of face mask and cough etiquette. But we must not neglect all the other tools: caring for your body; taking your medication; not smoking; limiting alcohol; getting sunlight; diet [and] exercise; all are very important parts of the toolkit needed to fight this invisible enemy called COVID-19,” the President of BAMP emphasised.