Churches, businesses identified among biggest places of concern

Health authorities are reporting several new COVID-19 clusters, a week after curfew and other measures were reintroduced after a spike in cases, and there are indications that businesses and churches could have their protocols adjusted.

Without giving specifics at this stage, Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George said on Tuesday that clusters in several families were also challenging for authorities.

“We would like to warn Barbadians that the major areas of concern for the Ministry of Health continue to be places of worship and business houses. In addition to that, families are of concern. We have some large families…over 10 individuals living in very close proximity to each other…and obviously there is movement within families, so there is spread of the virus,” Dr George told Barbados TODAY.

“In addition to that, we have had cases come through our borders, so we are also monitoring that. In the last few days, we have had about seven cases come through the airport so we are also dealing with those issues,” he added.

The Government’s chief medical advisor also disclosed that the previously discovered clusters remained areas of concern.

On July 11, less than two weeks after curfews and other restrictions were lifted, Minister of Health Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic announced a reintroduction of a nightly curfew, among other measures, in response to a massive spike in COVID-19 cases that included clusters at a St Michael church, two businesses and in a St George family.

Dr George told Barbados TODAY on Tuesday: “The big business cluster is still active…. There is another business, very active; there is a family in St George; there are two families in St Lucy…or a very large family in St Lucy; plus a business house in St Lucy. We have some other cases we are trying to link to other major groups, but we are trying to get a hold of the situation.”

He added that as contact tracing intensifies, there may have to be a review of strategies regarding this latest upsurge.

Under the current directive, an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is in effect and there is a cap of 100 persons allowed at churches, cinemas and other indoor settings, among other measures. The restrictions are in place until July 25, in the first instance.

According to Dr George, “there may be some policy decisions that may come out after. As you know, we are in a new directive. So there may be some alterations to the directives based on what is happening on the ground”.

Asked whether the recent clusters would result in new restrictions, the chief medical officer replied: “I wouldn’t like to say that. Remember how we work – we look at the evidence and we make recommendations to the sub-committee of Cabinet. We are gathering more and more information.”

Responding to questions about whether the current nightly curfew was working, Dr George said: “The curfew works because…after we had the 40-case spike, we had suggested that a curfew be in place, first to signal to the Barbadian public that all was not well and for them to curtail their movements.”

He stressed that the only ways to reduce the spread of the virus were if people complied with the protocols, got vaccinated, and stopped mixing with each other daily.

Asked how much could therefore be gained by an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, the chief medical officer acknowledged that was a period during which most people were asleep.

However, he added, “we know from the COVID Monitoring Unit there are still several instances at night where people have small parties or they congregate without using any of the protocols”.

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