Ellis issues COVID-19 warning ahead of Independence celebrations

Barbadians have a social and personal responsibility to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19 ahead of Independence celebrations, COVID-19 Public Advisor, David Ellis said Monday.

Appearing on Voice of Barbados’ Down to Brasstacks programme, Ellis acknowledged he was aware of many Barbadians’ feelings surrounding the uptick in tourist arrivals into the island even as the country continues to experience a surge in positive cases associated with COVID-19. He said the concern now should be framed around controlling the level of community spread on the island as numbers were still far too high for health officials.

He said: “We need to continue to push the concept of personal responsibility and recognize that whether you have an increase in visitors or not, because of the community spread that we have had in the country, because we have so many people in isolation which means that we have so many active cases, it requires that we exercise great caution.

“There is a danger in just looking at this from the point of view of the visitors coming into Barbados… whether the visitors come out or not, Barbados has to pay attention to surveillance.”

Ellis also expressed concern that many locals remained worried with the number of people seen frequenting popular bars, given the still high COVID-19 positivity rate. While under the current protocols, bars and restaurants are allowed to seat patrons on the inside with certain protocols in place, he revealed that more surveillance of these establishments may soon be undertaken to make sure that all relevant rules and safeguards are being adhered to.

“There is a lot of talk. People come to me all the time expressing deep concern about what happens at bars, and that’s a pretty interesting one because you know once people get some liquor in their head, they can throw all caution to the wind,” said Ellis. “Get too close to each other, you can’t drink with a mask on; when you are eating you can’t eat with the mask on, and therefore perhaps there is a need for a lot more reinforcement in those places.”

Following last week’s launch of the COVID-19 community engagement project in which several volunteers met with residents of Wellington Street, The City, and surrounding areas to assess vaccine hesitancy and other attitudes towards the coronavirus, Ellis said the initial data suggests that health officials may have made a mistake made earlier on in the pandemic by placing too strong an emphasis on vaccination and its benefits rather than on a holistic approach to help stem its spread.

The retired journalist said: “We may well have placed such a heavy emphasis on vaccines that we have at times kind of minimized the other critical aspects associated with fighting this disease. That has to do with following the other protocols.

“Many people would tell you, they have not just gotten to the point of determining why they did not get tested, it just did not feature as highly on their list of priorities as we believed it should.”

The early data from the project also suggest that many people in the community lacked access to mask and sanitizing items.

The COVID-19 public advisor said: “One of the things that I must tell you that stand out is the need to take masks and sanitisers to the community is great. These are things that when you stay aloft, you may not even realize how significant moves like that are, and that’s something that we have had private sector support [for] already. McBride was one of the companies involved, but we are looking for more private sector support in trying to address this and other related issues.” (SB)

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