COVID-19 update & plans for the management of the pandemic in Barbados for the remainder of the holiday season. (PMO)

Government has strengthened its ability to monitor quarantine sites and crack down on persons and entities in violation of the island’s COVID-19 protocols with the establishment of a COVID Rapid Response Unit and a COVID Engagement Unit.

Chairman of the Cabinet’s COVID-19 Sub-committee and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott, made this disclosure during a press conference held at Ilaro Court on Monday.

Dr. Walcott revealed that the COVID-19 Rapid Response Unit will comprise members of the Royal Barbados Police Force and the Barbados Defence Force, who will conduct joint patrols similar to what is done during the Crop Over season.

“The time has come for us to have this matter of persons who are in quarantine going to the front desk and calling taxis and leaving to stop.  The Rapid Response Unit has to come into force to be able to be called to stop these persons when they attempt to do that,” he said.

Senator Walcott further explained that the COVID Engagement Unit would be an expansion of the current COVID-19 Monitoring Unit. It will function in two aspects: “One group will be working with the guests, in terms of the test results, in terms of preparation for the second test, as to where they would go, and the other one (group) will be focusing on the demarcation of lines.”

He pointed out that someone from the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit would be stationed at the approved quarantine hotels to “monitor and ensure” that both the hotels and guests follow the protocols.

“If they (hotels) are not sticking to the protocols required, in terms of hosting persons in quarantine, that facility will be removed from the list of entities which are allowed to do quarantine of persons…. The time for warnings and working especially with hoteliers is over, now is the time for enforcement, I mean that,” he warned.

Minister Walcott also highlighted that the Best-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory had received additional resources to complete COVID-19 PCR tests and return results in the usual 24-hour time frame. 

He indicated that the laboratory has a four to five-month supply of test kits and noted that additional manpower had been recruited to assist with inputting data.

“There is a special unit which has been established to deal with that matter and they’ve started. Not fully utilised but expected to be fully implemented by January 1, an app that will assist in terms of the transmission of the visual information, in terms of when you key in data with the swabs and its transmission to the person’s email.”

He added that going forward the plan was to disseminate a spreadsheet to private doctors, hotels and individuals awaiting test results, indicating whether persons had been cleared from quarantine.

Minister Walcott also made an appeal to locals to refrain from visiting relatives and friends who were in quarantine at approved hotels, and cautioned them to wait until those persons had been cleared by health officials.

Noting it has been a difficult year, he urged Barbadians over the next couple of days to be safe; take the necessary precautions in all activities; exercise extreme restraint; and to continue to follow the established COVID-19 protocols. 

“That way, at the end of next December, persons might be able to indulge in some of the things that they weren’t allowed to do this year,” he said.

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