Tuesday 29 September, 2020

CMO sticks by his decision to give Senator Cummins 'go ahead'

(FILE) Acting chief medical officer, Dr Kenneth George

(FILE) Acting chief medical officer, Dr Kenneth George

Acting chief medical officer, Dr Kenneth George is standing by his decision to allow Senator Lisa Cummins to return to the Senate after testing negative for COVID-19. 

Last week, Opposition Senators Caswell Franklyn and Crystal Drakes and Independent Senators Monique Taitt and Lindell Nurse,  walked out of the Upper Chamber after noticing that the Minister of Tourism and International Transport who was supposed to be in self-quarantine returned to the Chamber. 

Cummins and Minister of Health and Wellness, Jeffrey Bostic were ordered to self-quarantine after it was reported that nine out of the  95 Ghanaian nurses who were welcomed at the Grantley Adams International Airport on July 30 tested positive for COVID-19. 

However, on August 5,  the Minister of Tourism returned to the Upper Chamber citing that she received a negative test and clearance from the Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr George.

George held that his decision was based on "scientific evidence". He emphasized that the Ministry has continuously made decisions to ensure the public health and safety of the population since the pandemic began and there had been no breach in protocol.

He also contended that Cummins was deemed to be "very low risk".   

"We in this ministry have assured the public that we use a steady hand when we make decisions in this ministry and we have agreed that the risks to start with were extremely low and we used the science at the time. 
We will and we continue to make sure that the interest of the public is paramount and the protection of the public is paramount," George said. 

He added: "Barbados’ ability to navigate this process is because we have a competent team that advises the senior officers within the Ministry of Health and we don’t take any decision that we make very lightly". 

George explained that although the recommended incubation period was 14 days, there was no "clear cut definition" regarding the development of the virus. 

"We have said in our protocols that persons coming from high-risk areas should be tested before they come to Barbados and five to seven days after they will be tested again. After that period we have said that we considered them to be noninfectious and they can move on – we have said so in the protocols. . . . These are public documents there for you to scrutinize. It is not a clear cut definition, it depends on when you test, how you test, and the disease process," he stressed. 

Infectious disease consultant and Isolation Facilities manager, Dr Corey Forde further explained that persons can "convert" or go from a negative to positive result within a period of four to five days. He stated that by day seven if there was little exposure to the virus, the possibility of developing COVID-19 was "extremely low". 

"Majority of the people covert between day four and day five and . . .  interestingly in this particular case, because these individuals were coming from a high-risk setting, they were among people who were high risk and if you look to see the last three who converted, they converted right within that period which is exactly what we expected to happen. So testing at day seven you have a lower rate especially when your exposure possibility is low, the probability of you developing COVID after is extremely low," he disclosed. 

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