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An aerial view of Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados (Photo: businessinsider.com)

Barbados gov’t defends new health protocols

An aerial view of Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados (Photo: businessinsider.com)

The Government of Barbados says the health of citizens must remain protected at all times as it responded to concerns raised by the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) regarding the new travel protocols in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic era.

An aerial view of the Port of Bridgetown, which is a facility managed by Barbados Port Inc (Photo; Cruise Mapper)

In a statement, the Ministry of Health and Wellness said it had taken note that BAMP has shared its concerns about the new travel protocols, but that it should also be noted that “BAMP is represented on the Emergency Operations Committee of the Ministry.

“The Ministry of Health and Wellness’ strategic position is that of maintaining and protecting the public’s health, based on the available scientific evidence, and supporting measured reopening of the Barbados economy.”

“We are aware that technology will be used…however, there is still an additional human resource element that must support this.”

– Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners

BAMP, in a statement posted on its Facebook page, said the amended protocols that target persons from medium and high risk countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and several South American and European countries, “would likely spend only two days in quarantine after arrival in Barbados with a negative PCR COVID-19 test result.

It said the five-day period before the second COVID-19 test, includes the days after the traveller took the test in his or her home country.

“The current protocol states that travellers from high risk countries will be allowed to leave quarantine on the basis of a negative test done 4-5 days after the last negative test result.

“This would imply that a high-risk person who tested 72 hours before travel, who presents an acceptable negative test result on arrival, would be able to be tested again and leave quarantine in as little as one to two days after arrival in Barbados.

“Based on a review of the available evidence, including the possibility of false negative testing, such an approach will fail to detect and quarantine at [least] 9 – 33 per cent of travellers who contract COVID-19 between their initial test and arrival in Barbados,” BAMP noted.

“We also express concern about the availability of human and physical resources. A volume of high-risk travellers from these countries will necessitate a significant increase in the testing resources and in monitoring the symptoms, those in quarantine, those in isolation facilities and those in self-isolation at approved facilities.

“Just 3,000 passengers a week would cost us an estimated $1 – 2 million in testing supplies alone. We are aware that technology will be used for much of the monitoring and that geo-fencing will be employed, however, there is still an additional human resource element that must support this,” BAMP said, expressing concern that travellers were now being asked to arrange their own second test either through a public facility by calling the COVID-19 hotline or privately.

But the Ministry of Health and Wellness said that since Barbados detected its first case of COVID-19 in March of this year, “we have conducted 25,000 PCR COVID-19 tests, 190 persons have been diagnosed and we have recorded seven deaths.

“This is testimony to our commitment to best practice as identified by the World Health Organisation and the Pan American Health Organisation. This pandemic has carried the world into uncharted territory globally.

“It is therefore imperative that we follow the guidance of these agencies with global and hemispheric discipline in public health, which is a dedicated and specific area in the practice of medicine.”

It said in response to BAMP’s concerns “the new protocol requesting a repeat test four to five days after the first test is based on the current evidence published by the World Health Organisation,” adding “we are convinced that even in these uncertain times that the public health of Barbadians will remain protected;

The Ministry of Health and Wellness said it would continue to ensure that there are appropriate human and financial resources deployed in the COVID-19 efforts.