Some 161 personnel and inmates at Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP) Dodds, St. Philip, have tested positive for COVID-19, following an aggressive campaign of testing mounted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness over the past 48 hours.
This comes on the heels of news that a bus crawl held on Boxing Day was the super spreader event, which led to a spike in local transmission among the staff and prison population. Four members of the Barbados Defence Force, who attended the event, also tested positive for the viral illness.
During an update on the evolving situation on Saturday evening, Minister of Health and Wellness, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, disclosed that teams from the Ministry, working around the clock, achieved their target of testing everyone at the prison – inmates and staff – except those staff members who were on leave.
HMP Dodds has a total complement of 1,130 inmates and staff. Public health officials were able to swab a total of 1,033 persons, or just over 90 per cent of the total population at the prison, which comprises 788 prisoners and 347 staff members, of which 35 are civilians. Minister Bostic assured the public that the process of testing and contact tracing would be ongoing.
“This is the strategy that we have to use in order for us to be able to contain the spread of this virus. We will continue our contact tracing until we get every single primary contact in particular, and all contacts related to persons who have already tested positive,” he emphasised, adding that the Ministry was still working assiduously to locate “patient zero”.
He continued: “Patient zero has not been identified. But there is a lead which we are following; there’s a thread. And that is under active investigation by the contact and tracing team. And if that leads to anything, I will certainly report, but at this point in time, we are just following that lead, but nothing that we can confirm at this time…. We are still investigating that matter, and I will report in due course.”
Additionally, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George, pointed out that the Ministry was conducting rigorous contact tracing specific to the bus crawl.
“As you know, bus crawls make several stops. And we are going to go to those bars and make sure that the persons who are primary contacts are tested first. So, there is a team that is working on the whole surrounding issue of the bus crawl,” he stated.
Dr. George said that in addition to the 161 cases at HMP Dodds, there were another 33 positive COVID-19 cases recorded between Friday and Saturday, which were not related to the prison.
He noted that there were still imported cases coming through the Grantley Adams International Airport as well as those picked up through island-wide contact tracing.