Barbados has community spread of COVID-19, Minister of Health and Wellness Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic said Saturday.
He said the country is experiencing from low to moderate incidence or risk of community transmission beyond clusters, adding that there are as many as 12 cases being detected in some families because of exposure to a contact.
Bostic has also put Barbadians on notice that additional measures may be required to control transmission, but said tightening up on restrictions, if necessary, will be discussed in the coming days.
“For those cases where we have exhausted our efforts in terms of finding a link, we now, based on the public health officials’ reporting, have reached the stage where we believe, and we are declaring that there is community transmission in Barbados,” Bostic said.
He said officials are working based on what they are seeing, and continue to do contact tracing across the various communities where the clusters were springing up.
“The medical professionals have advised that based on two factors, one, some of the cases that we were following from the initial stages of this outbreak, we still have been unable to link some of those cases to any of the existing clusters or to any previous positives.
“And that is because we have been trying desperately, and it is not that we put cases into clusters for the sake of doing so, it has to do with where the contact tracing leads us. And so, some of those cases up to this point in time have not yet been determined, but we are also seeing some other cases that are coming up, some new cases. And the important thing for us right now is to focus on new cases and we will continue the contact tracing with the others,” he said.
Bostic also alluded to the fact that the majority of cases are coming from environments where people would tend to naturally drop their guard, including communities, while protocols enforced at majority of business places have been assisting in reducing cases being found at those entities.
“We recognize that the cases are set all over the country, for the most part, the southern part of the country and along the West Coast and this is consistent with where some of those clusters have developed,” he said.
The Minister indicated that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has been informed about the authorities’ decision regarding declaring community spread.
He said while Barbados has been working assiduously to deal with positive cases, putting required measures in place; authorities have a plan in place, including finding persons who were exposed to known positive cases, assess them, and place them in quarantine.
He also said that additional resources from within the Ministry of Health and Wellness will be allocated to the contact tracing effort, including the use of the WHO approved antigen rapid test to assist with screening at hospital and an initial test for primary contacts.
“We met this morning with members of the council of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners in order to discuss the integration of the private sector doctors and clinics in the testing of persons using the antigen rapid test.
“Additionally, an all-out effort to identify and locate symptomatic persons within communities will be initiated as a matter of urgency. This is vitally important because our greatest desire has always been and will continue to be to save lives.”
Bostic said assessing the level of transmission is key to assessing the overall COVID-19 situation in Barbados and therefore, guiding essential decisions on response activities and tailoring epidemic control measures are of great importance.
He said Barbados has a challenge on its hands but noted that it is one that the country still has the capacity to deal with.
“The the situation is not one for panic; the situation is one for all of us to come together and to try collectively to resolve the issues and to stop the spread”. (AH)