Health Minister says country not in a position to manage another lockdown

Despite COVID-19 cases showing no sign of abatement, Barbadians are being given the assurance that there will be no lockdown in the foreseeable future.

However, Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic is pleading with residents to follow the COVID-19 protocols and take the available vaccines to help combat the spread of the deadly illness, insisting that “we are nowhere near where we want to be”.

Following confirmation of 40 new COVID cases on July 10, authorities reintroduced a two-week 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, while capping the maximum number of persons at gatherings at churches, cinemas and other indoor settings at 100, among other measures. Those measures are in effect until July 25.

However, the number of cases continues to increase, with double-digit figures recorded in the week since the restrictions took effect. On Tuesday, there were 23 new COVID cases and the number of people in isolation climbed to 164; while there were 10 new cases on Wednesday and an additional person placed in isolation.

Minister Bostic said on Wednesday that despite the recent increases in cases, the country was in no position to go on lockdown.

“We are nowhere near a lockdown. Lockdown is the last resort,” he insisted.

Pointing to increased public health interventions and mitigation strategies, such as the curfew, to help slow and contain the spread of the virus, Bostic said the numbers currently being seen were somewhat expected.

“We have been doing aggressive contact tracing and we have been testing large numbers. For the last several days, the numbers would have been close to or surpassing 1 000. So, yes, we anticipate that we would be getting cases and that is not an issue,” said Bostic.

However, he added: “We are seeing one or two cases coming up that are not related to the major clusters and that is a concern for us. It means we have a bit more work to do, but at this point we are not contemplating a lockdown.”

Bostic told Barbados TODAY the numbers related to COVID-19 positive cases were “nowhere near we wanted them to be”, but promised that authorities would continue to do everything possible to get people to adhere to the protocols.

Adding that people should recognize that the virus was “still very present”, Bostic said he was also concerned that people were still not coming forward to be tested and they were still shying away from getting vaccinated.

“We had some people, by the time they came forward, they were sick and, in some cases, very sick. So we always knew that somewhere out there, there were cases and people were not coming forward. There is still a long way to go in getting people back to where we were before in relation to observing the protocols,” he said.

As it relates to vaccine take-up, the Health Minister said he believed there was need for greater public education on the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, as he acknowledged the number of people coming forward to take it was below par.

He gave the assurance that all the COVID-19 vaccines being administered in Barbados were approved and safe to take.

Bostic said the island was still awaiting the approximately 33 000 vaccines through the COVAX Facility and those promised by the United States government. However, he was unable to give a timeline for arrival.

“I know there are some people who might prefer Pfizer or Moderna for whatever reason. I say, make use of whatever vaccines we have on the table here in Barbados that have been approved because we do not know when we are going to get those other vaccines,” he insisted.

When it comes to children contracting the virus, Bostic informed that the young ones were not contracting the virus in the usually crowded school setting, but “when they leave school”.

“It is because the protocols within the schools are there and they are followed. That goes for a lot of other places. If we do the right things we will contain or eliminate the spread of the virus,” he added.

Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George further explained that COVID-19 cases among children were often a result of other family members passing on the virus to them.

“The experience in Barbados is that when we identify children, the adults who accompany those children tend to be positive also,” he said, adding that it was usually a milder case for the children than the adult.

However, pleading with Barbadians to come forward to get vaccinated, Dr George said the number of positive cases among persons who are between the ages of 25 to 40 has increased.

“These are the people who need to come forward and be vaccinated. Remember, the vaccines are not foolproof but they offer the best opportunity for you to not have severe disease, for you not to be hospitalized and, in some instances, it reduces your ability to transmit the infection,” said the chief medical officer.

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