National Assistance Board, 225 employees being tested for COVID-19
Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde.
All employees of the state-owned National Assistance Board (NAB) are to be tested for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The decision was made after five staff members from the statutory corporation tested positive.
Three of the five positive cases worked at the Country Road, St Michael office and two of the cases were senior home helpers.
Addressing the nation this morning, Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde declared 225 employees from clerical staff to field staff including home helpers will undergo testing. So far 40 employees have been tested and 104 are to be tested today with the balance to be tested over the weekend and results received by Monday. The employees are to be quarantined at local hotels at the Government's expense.
Forde detailed that the first known case of COVID-19 at the NAB was traced to a clerical officer who contracted the virus from a relative who came in from overseas.
“The first member of staff who is known to have contracted the [novel] coronavirus is not part of the field division but works exclusively in a clerical position at the headquarters of the National Assistance Board. She is believed to have contracted the virus from a close relative who came into the country and was staying with her and who subsequently became ill and who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 several weeks ago.
"During the incubation period for that first patient, the relative was completely asymptomatic and continued to work, as usual, however, officers at the Ministry of Health and Wellness took the precautionary step to take that staffer into quarantine and tested her for the virus and discovered sadly that she has been infected.
"Contact tracing commenced immediately, targeting colleagues and persons with whom she would have come into close contact. This led to a decision to quarantine all staff at the headquarters of the National Assistance Board.”
The Minister of People Empowerment stressed that the administrative employee did not come into contact with any home helpers. She said, that the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs has created a contingency plan to ensure that its clients will not be impacted during this period.
"Home interventions by crisis staff and other senior personnel have been suspended since early March. We do not anticipate therefore to discover any significant degree of inter-face between administrative staff and home helpers in the weeks leading up to this latest development, however, we are testing everybody just in case," Forde disclosed.
"This is an unfortunate circumstance, it matters not now what could have been done or what should have been done. We are confronted today with a situation that we have as Barbadians to each assume the role and posture of our brothers' and our sisters' keeper," she added.
When questioned by a local journalist via Zoom, if the first NAB COVID-19 case, the possible Patient 0, will receive disciplinary action, the Minister of People Empowerment stated that it was not being considered.
"I don’t think that is not the route we should be looking to go at all. Our major focus in the Ministry of Health and our department is to ensure that everybody’s care is looked after [and] everybody’s health is looked after most professionally and profoundly. I would not want to be able to speak to any matter of that nature because people don’t know they are asymptomatic."
Government has also employed psychologists and counsellors to engage family members of staff. Acting Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw is to meet with employees starting from Monday to assure them of Government's commitment to supporting them "in any way possible in the days and the weeks ahead".