Six-point plan on stream
The Government of Barbados has a six-point strategy to fight COVID-19, and after some hiccups, everything is getting back on stream.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley identified aggressive contact tracing, Operation Seek and Save, testing at the Best-dos Santos Laboratory returning to normalcy, a comprehensive vaccination programme, adherence to protocols and enforcement as the six measures.
She addressed the nation on Monday afternoon, during which she gave an update on the current national pause and announced an extension until February 28, 2021.
Contact tracing is being employed via various means and one of them is through Operation Seek and Save. Mottley said to date the teams visited 60 000 households or approximately two-thirds of Barbadian homes and she expected it to wrap up in a week.
Senator Jerome Walcott, who oversees Operation Seek and Save, said it had identified 18 positive cases of COVID-19.
The third prong in the attack is for the Best-dos Santos Laboratory to clear the backlog and get back on track with testing.
Pointing to failures in the market supply chain dating back over months, Mottley said Barbados ordered the equipment for automatic extraction in the lab, but it has been slow in coming. This follows the explanation by Minister of Health Jeffrey Bostic who said the order was made back in September, and when some supplies finally came, there was no binding agent.
Several attempts were made to source material from overseas and Mottley said the Regional Security System would be bringing in binding agent from Guyana. Once all of the material is on island, about 1 600 tests should be cleared.
With the arrival of 100 000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Mottley said she could now speak to a comprehensive vaccine programme.
Up to Sunday, she said, 1 863 people received their first dose of vaccine and most will get the second in ten weeks’ time. The vaccination programme will be ramped up this week, especially with the addition of the vulnerable in the community.
Government sent an appeal to special groups to come forward for vaccination. Just over 2 000 people in the 70 and over age group and just under 1 000 in the 18 to 69 group with comorbidities responded.
Mottley said Barbados continues to look for vaccines on the open market. She expects those through the COVAX facility to arrive soon. Barbados also applied for 55 000 doses through the African Medical Platform. She said while the AstraZeneca – which has been approved by the World Health Organisation – comprised the bulk of the order, there might be some Pfizer doses for others.
Residents, who are not citizens, including those on the Welcome Stamp, will also be eligible to receive vaccines.
The Prime Minister also addressed the rumours and fake news making the rounds on social media. She said such behaviour could place the lives of others who are not aware or are discerning at risk. A lot of the information being circulated is outdated and she warned Barbadians about the vaccine war between Britain (AstraZeneca) and its former European Union neighbour Germany, manufacturers of Pfizer.
Mottley said while the vaccine will not prevent you from catching COVID, it will go a long way in preventing the spread and building herd immunity.
But even after taking the vaccine, people will still be required to wear a mask, sanitise and practise social distancing, that is, follow the public health protocols.
The final plank is enforcement.
Mottley said 30 charges are soon to be laid, ranging from not wearing masks to operating shops and holding parties. She warned shopkeepers about “opening windows” to serve customers and also told beachgoers if they didn’t stop congregating, that avenue would also be closed to them.
The Prime Minister said the COVID Monitoring Unit was being deployed to the beach to aid with enforcement.