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Community spread of COVID in Barbados

Sherrylyn Toppin

Community spread of COVID in Barbados
Minister of Health Jeffrey Bostic. (GP)

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There is community spread of COVID-19 in Barbados.

Minister of Health Jeffrey Bostic made the disclosure during Saturday’s COVID-19 management update by the Government of Barbados which was streamed live from Ilaro Court, confirming what many suspected after the cases mushroomed at the end of 2020.

He still can’t say if one of the variant strains is on island as the samples are in the queue at the Caribbean Public Health Laboratory in Trinidad and Tobago.

For several weeks, Government and health officials shied away from the term community spread, instead focusing on the clusters which broke out on the West Coast, South Coast and at Her majesty’s Prison Dodds.

However, there are now cases which can’t be linked to contacts or existing cases.

“For those cases where we have exhausted our efforts in terms of finding a link, we now, based on the public health officials, have reached the stage where we believe and we are declaring that there is community transmission in Barbados,” Bostic said.

The Minister said this was anticipated from inception last year, which led to the standing up of Blackman and Gollop Primary School and there are other facilities which can be adapted in a similar fashion.

“Our strategy at the moment is trying to find persons that we consider to have been exposed to known positive cases, continue to assess them, place them in quarantine and to test all primary contacts, and this will continue, but with some intensification in places of greatest interest.”

Bostic said since the first cases in this outbreak were detected at the end of last year, there were 1 035 positive, mainly among Barbadians living in Barbados. He said they are spread across the country, but are concentrated on the South and West Coasts, consistent with the clusters.

He said the evidence was pointing to the fact that the cases were originating in areas where people tend to drop their guard, among family and in community settings, but there was one positive coming from the business sector.

“The protocols are actually holding and because the protocols are holding, that is why we are not seeing a lot of positive cases coming from contacts from those persons who would have visited various business places and so on,” he explained.

As for those clusters, while there were no increases in some, there were two additional cases to the West Coast cluster, bringing the number to 133; 14 more to the bars, businesses and hotels, bringing the number to 77 and there are now 45 in total from the Boxing Day bus crawl with the addition of 18.

The Health Minister said they are using a World Health Organisation-approved Rapid Antigen Test at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and met with representatives from the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners on Saturday morning to discuss the use of the test by private sector doctors.

Bostic said an “all-out effort to identify and locate symptomatic persons within communities will be initiated as a matter of urgency”. (SAT)