COVID-19 update and press conference – February 4, 2021. (PMO)

The earlier persons present to a health care facility for monitoring and treatment of COVID-19 or dengue fever, the better would be the outcome.

This was a key point made by Deputy Dean of Internationalisation and Recruitment of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, Dr. Kenneth Connell, as he addressed today’s COVID-19 update and press conference on efforts to beat the illness through the Seek and Save initiative.

The scientist, who is part of the UWI team leading 431 students that embarked on the project today, spoke to the importance of the joint effort and assured citizens it was alright if they declined being interviewed. 

While first acknowledging that the university was pleased to partner with Government in the national emergency initiative, he said it was not going to be business as usual.

He pointed out that this had been realised for months with the imposition of lockdown restrictions, the wearing of masks and the need to remain physically distant.

“This lockdown aims to not just halt or pause the likely spread of the virus in the community, but it also gives us the important opportunity to seek or identify those individuals that are at highest risk and also those individuals that are exhibiting symptoms,” he said.

“This lockdown aims to not just halt or pause the likely spread of the virus in the community, but it also gives us the important opportunity to seek or identify those individuals that are at highest risk and also those individuals that are exhibiting symptoms.”

Dr. Kenneth Connell

Dr. Connell reminded Barbadians that the Caribbean was also going through the dengue season and stressed that the Seek and Save initiative aimed to address some of the risk factors for dengue.

“Every Barbadian … out there knows that both COVID-19 and dengue fever present with a fever and therefore some of the symptoms may be overlapping and confusing.”

Giving further reasons for the mission, he noted that many of the deaths from the pandemic had been associated with high-risk individuals, persons with non-communicable diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

“Apart from this, some of them have actually been at home with symptoms and we do know also that the earlier patients present to a health care facility for monitoring and for starting whatever medications are being used as part of the treatment, the better the outcome.

(Stock Photo)

“All that Seek and Save really seeks to do is to go out there and to identify these patients using a standardised checklist of symptoms as well as to collect various demographic information to identify those people in an algorithm who are at high risk or higher risk,” he stated.

Dr. Connell noted that based on these factors, individuals would be invited by the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ team, and not the university’s team, to undergo rapid antigen tests, and depending on the results of those tests further treatment or advice would be given.  

“So, as part of a civic responsibility of an indigenous university, the UWI has sought to be part of this because our relatives, as well as our friends and our family all live in Barbados and we have a responsibility to contribute to anything that counteracts a national emergency,” Dr. Connell said.

Emphasising that the island had to respond to the one enemy in this war – the virus – and the information collected would determine those at risk, he assured the public that it did not mean their rights as an individual would change. 

“All that Seek and Save really seeks to do is to go out there and to identify these patients using a standardised checklist of symptoms as well as to collect various demographic information to identify those people in an algorithm who are at high risk or higher risk.”

Dr. Kenneth Connell

“In other words, you have the right to refuse to participate; you have the right to only answer those questions you feel comfortable in answering. Of course, we want you to answer all of the questions and to be as honest as possible but we also recognise that you can say ‘well I don’t wish to be part of this’.”

Dr. Connell also disclosed that many people had expressed fears about “people coming out in the middle of community spread”.  

However, he pointed to the importance of everyone taking precautions in the same manner as if they were going to the supermarket, the bank or the hairdresser.  

“It doesn’t matter where you are going; precautions have to be taken and these include the wearing of a mask, the wearing of a face shield as appropriate, maintaining a physical distance and hand sanitising.

“All of us, whether a health care professional or not; if you are living in the middle of this pandemic, you have to bear one thing in mind and that is consider yourself positive until proven otherwise, and take every step to ensure that you are protecting yourself and others around you. It means again you wear your mask; you wash your hands, and you wear barrier protection,” he stressed.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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