Infection rate now estimated at 20% in ‘Delta’ surge; deaths continue

The COVID-19  pandemic in Barbados shows no sign yet of slowing down, public health experts acknowledged on Wednesday, even as some people still consider it a hoax.

Within the past few days, Barbados’ positivity rate – the number of positive cases from the total number of tests – has increased exponentially to over 1,500 cases per 100,000 population or about 20 per cent, said Senior Public Health Officer Dr Arthur Phillips, who noted a continuing high level of viral transmission.

A positivity rate this high is usually considered by international public health agencies as a pandemic gone out of control.

With the winter tourist season about to figure heavily in the island’s desperate bid for an economic rebound, the positivity rate is exactly at the point the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would consider a Level 4 risk and urge its citizens to avoid the destination.

On Tuesday, there were 436 new positive cases reported out of 2,265 tests conducted, and two COVID-19 sufferers died.

The positivity rate has ballooned beyond 25 cases per 100,000, the figure in May before the highly infectious Delta variant struck, Dr Phillips told a forum with COVID-19 Public Advisor David Ellis on Wednesday morning.

“In terms of what has been happening and what is happening currently in Barbados with COVID, we are still seeing a very high level of transmission and that level is continuing to increase,” he said.

“We would normally define more than 500 cases per 100,000 population as a very high level. People may remember back in January and March we would have spoken to the idea of 25 cases per 100, 000 as a threshold that we were aiming for to get below and we have been for the past few days above 1600-1700 cases per 100, 000 population and of course we have established that Delta, the highly transmissible variant is circulating in Barbados.”

As of Monday, only around 47 per cent of the entire population was fully vaccinated with that number increasing to 55 per cent out of those eligible to take the vaccines, currently age 12 and older.

But with large numbers of people continuing to be infected daily, Dr Natalie Greaves, a lecturer in Public Health at the University of West Indies, said the time had come for people to stop referring to COVID-19 as a hoax.

She called on Barbadians to act responsibly and follow the protocols.

“We know that coronavirus exists,” said Dr Greaves. “It is amazing to me that persons are still saying that COVID is not real and that it’s essentially a whole hoax, that is not the case.

“I think those persons who have been ill can attest to that and the public health practitioners and the persons at Harrison’s Point and just the global evidence base would let everyone know that we have to put that kind of argument aside now and accept that this is a condition that needs to be treated aggressively and managed at a population level and an individual level as well, so I would want to use this opportunity to implore persons to take a moment of pause.”

She said that much of the apparent vaccine hesitancy is due to people “seeding doubt about things that have a strong scientific basis”.

Dr Greaves said she was also concerned about the belief among young people that they are immune to COVID-19.

“The other thing that I’m still getting a lot of is really that persons are thinking that because they are young they are immune and therefore they don’t need to wear their masks, they can still lime wherever they lime and they are not keeping their physical distancing, not sanitizing,” she said. 

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