Sunday 27 September, 2020

PM defends Bubble: Eastern, Southern C'bean have lowest COVID-19 risk

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley as she addressed the nation at a press conference on August 2, 2020

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley as she addressed the nation at a press conference on August 2, 2020

Prime Minister Mia Mottley wants Barbadians to know that “there is no possibility of the elimination of all risks” where the COVID-19 virus is concerned.

As she explained the rationale behind the travel Bubble in a press conference today (August 5) she called on all to be cognisant that “we are not dealing with a zero-sum game” but with lives and livelihoods.

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“We recognize that we have to be able to balance lives with livelihoods and the region that presents the absolute least risk for us is actually the Eastern and Southern Caribbean. The protocols say very specifically that if you have been in a high-risk country or medium-risk country within the last 21 days then you don’t get the benefit of the Bubble,” she stated.

Updated travel protocols identify countries within the Bubble as St Lucia, St Kitts & Nevis, Grenada, Dominica and St Vincent & The Grenadines.  Presently, persons travelling from these countries will not be required to take a COVID-19 PCR test prior to or on arrival in Barbados. However, this is on the condition that they have not travelled to or transited through any country designated as high, medium or low-Risk within 21 days prior to travel to Barbados.

The PM reassured Barbadians that risk assessment has been done and highlighted the work of the Joint Regional Communication Centre (JRCC). She pointed out that it was this entity which was responsible for conducting the comparative analysis for all Caribbean states, as to where persons are coming from, as well as the security checks.

“So, when we tell you that these are risks that we can take, we believe so fervently. Does that mean that you may not get a COVID case from one of the islands in the Bubble? It doesn’t, because you can entirely get that but what it means is that the volume of cases from the bubble are unlikely to be very high and that we can manage them,” PM Mottley explained.

Providing an example of the utility of the JRCC, the PM highlighted a case where one of the individuals who tested positive over the weekend travelled through Antigua but actually originated from New York. The JRCC was able to alert local officials allowing for that individual to be tested and subsequently contained.

Mottley went on to specify that the COVID-19 response was a whole of government approach, and by extension a regional approach, incorporating the use of regional entities like JRCC and CARPHA.

The definition for access to the Bubble, as explained by the PM, meant that there must be less than 0.05 percent cases within the last 14 days. However, Mottley also reiterated that although all was being done to protect Barbadians, the task was not simply protecting nationals from COVID-19.

“Protecting Barbadians does not mean protecting only from COVID, it means protecting Barbadians from mental sickness, it means protecting Barbadians from incapacity to live, protecting Barbadians from a whole host of things that go beyond a single question framework,” the PM said.

“We cannot eliminate all risks. We live in a world where COVID is present and for which there is no known vaccine or known cure for COVID but we can do as we have been doing, far better than most,” PM Mottley asserted.

Jamaica has been placed on the medium-risk list as of August 5. It has over 900 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

Barbados amended its protocols and released them most recently on August 3 to take effect August 5. Persons from low-risk territories outside of the Bubble who have not been to or through a high-risk country within 21 days of their arrival in Barbados can present a valid negative COVID-19 test result for a test taken within five days of travel to Barbados, as opposed to within 72 hours prior to arrival. 

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