Thursday 26 November, 2020

Extended State of Emergency to assist COVID-19 contact tracing effort

Health Minister Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic uses his hands to explain contact tracing - 'Say my hand is the trunk...'

Health Minister Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic uses his hands to explain contact tracing - 'Say my hand is the trunk...'

Barbados is taking the tool of contact tracing very seriously.

Contact tracing is actually eating up a significant portion of the lives of the health officials who are working round the clock to stop the spread of COVID-19 locally.

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With still no signs of community transmission on island, the Health Minister Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic appealed to Barbadians to follow the restrictions and guidelines in order to make the lives and work of the health officials somewhat easier.

Making a comment in the House of Assembly after the Acting Prime Minister spoke of extending the State Of Emergency proclamation for the country before April 27, in light of the Public Health Emergency - COVID-19, he said:

"This is not something that those persons in public health and especially those who are on the frontline would wish to do because perhaps the authority is there to do it, because I can say to you that those on the frontline, I have people who are involved in contact tracing and they are doing it from early in the morning till late in the evening and they get very little time to spend with their family and loved ones. I say that because even though there are restrictions, the restrictions do impact on the lives of those who are working in the frontline because even during those hours that are made available for them to do their shopping at the supermarket, they're quite a few of them who are unable to take advantage of that because they are out on the frontline. So, it is impacting on them as well. But they do it and they do it because they recognise the importance of us being able to do what we are doing.

"If we have a lockdown, a lockdown on its own and I have said this elsewhere before, will not help us to get out of this situation. It [a lockdown] will facilitate the process of us getting out of the situation but on its own, it does not." 

Therefore he urged that an extended State of Emergency gives the officials some cover.

"It is vitally important and the Public Health imperative in terms of what is happening now, is to give public health officers the opportunity to make contact with as many people as possible who through the contact tracing programme would have come into contact with a confirmed case, and this is the importance of it.

"The faster we are able to reach those persons and the more of those persons we are able to reach, the better we will be able to contain the spread of the virus and therefore properly and adequately manage the public health emergency."

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Explaining how the health officials are going about conducting contact tracing locally, the Minister of Health said:

"To simplify it, if you take a confirm case as the trunk of a tree, those contacts that we are looking for become the branches, but then if one of those branches becomes infected that creates other branches and that is how it spreads and that is how it is and it makes it even more difficult to be able to cover and to trace and to adequately service all of those contacts, and that is why in some countries, larger countries especially . . . for them it requires a large number of persons given the spread of the virus. What we are trying to do here in Barbados, is to fight desperately for us not to reach that stage where this thing becomes unmanageable. And that is why we have to take these measures now."

Barbados Public Health Emergency proclamation is being extended from April 27 to June 30.

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