CMO’s promises tough action against protocol breaches

The Acting Chief Medical Officer has vowed to work with the police to prosecute people who breach the coronavirus protocols.

But it remained unclear Wednesday whether the most recent, heavily publicised breaches of the anti-virus rules, are actively receiving the attention of law enforcement officials.

Dr Kenneth George’s declaration came in response to questions about a number of recent protocol breaches that, in one instance, led to a small cluster of COVID-19 cases on the West Coast.

The revelations have resulted in tremendous pressure on officials in the Ministries of Health and Tourism from the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP), as well as the general public.

When asked if the Ministry of Health would be going after those responsible for the latest breaches, Dr George told Barbados TODAY: “That is correct. We will and we’ve been saying this for a while.

“We work with the Royal Barbados Police Force on a daily basis identifying persons who have breached quarantine. To date, there have been four or so persons charged.”

Barbados TODAY on Monday disclosed details about a breach of quarantine protocols involving at least one visitor from the United Kingdom that resulted in a COVID-19 cluster on the West Coast.

Further investigations by Barbados TODAY revealed that the breach involved a British guest who ventured to a house party while awaiting results from a second test.

Since then, reports emerged that a visitor who should have been in quarantine was spotted doing business at a South Coast branch of Republic Bank. But Dr George said he is unaware of the incident.

According to the Emergency (COVID-19) Protocols, quarantine breaches can attract a maximum fine of $50,000 or one year imprisonment or both.

And while head of the Covid-19 Monitoring Unit Ronald Chapman has promised increased surveillance of the country’s hotels, the monitoring of guests in quarantine, the national Quarantine Manager in the Ministry of Health is responsible for managing any breaches.

When contacted, Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith told Barbados TODAY that he was in a meeting, but advised that the reporter should call back within the hour. Subsequent efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.

Deputy Police Commissioner Erwin Boyce said he has not been briefed about specific breaches, but underscored the force’s responsibility to “enforce laws and regulations”.

“So whenever something is brought to our attention and we believe there is merit to the matter that is brought before us, we will seek to enforce the law by prosecution or otherwise,” he said.

President of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners Dr Linda Williams has advised that if Government intends to remain open to travellers from the United Kingdom, currently ripped by an outbreak of a mutant strain of the coronavirus, the country’s protocols must be tightened.

In an interview on Voice of Barbados radio she said: “If you are not going to ban, you have to have the other things working and in place, and if you don’t have the other things working and in place, and you are not confident that you can get them up and running in a short period of time in the way that they are supposed to work, and you are not confident in your ability to quarantine people in the way that they are supposed to be and fine them if they breach quarantine and make them face the penalty.

“If you are not confident that you can do all of those things, then you should consider putting a ban on it… because this situation can arise many many times.”

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