The abandoned naval base at Harrison Point, St Lucy will be retrofitted as an isolation and quarantine centre as Government steps up measures to keep the coronavirus (COVID-19) at bay.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley disclosed the move at a press conference Sunday evening following an emergency CARICOM meeting involving leaders, health ministers, medical experts, tourism players and other personnel at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
On Saturday, she toured the site, which was used as a temporary prison following the fire at HMP Glendairy in 2005, along with Attorney General Dale Marshall, Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic; Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works (MTW) Dr Peter Phillips and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Jerome Walcott.
“We are looking to use there for both quarantine and isolation, luckily we have a number of buildings that will allow us to be able to deal with quarantining, previously when it was used as a temporary prison, there was also a temporary hospital provided there, so we have a building that we will have to bring back into shape. It is a couple weeks work to bring it back into shape, but luckily the engineering of the roof and walls are still there.”
During her visit, the MTW cleared the overgrown bush and removed all the windows, doors and conduit from the building.
She could not say how much the repairs would cost but estimated that the site once upgraded could provide care for up to 150 people.
“Against that background so long as we can identify the requisite resources we will on a building by building by building basis start to increase our capacity [to treat to Covid-19 cases} beyond the 80 to 100, “ Mottley said.
The Government already has a number of facilities ready to handle any incidents. These include the Elaine Scantlebury Centre, the Old District Hospital, which is currently under repair, Paragon and the Barbados Defence Force Military Hospital.
Mottley, however, noted that the additional facility was needed since Barbados as a homeport may be required to take quick action to contain visitors in the event of any concerns.
The Prime Minister admitted the country’s response to the deadly virus first discovered in China was not “a simple issue” especially since the country is in an International Monetary Fund programme. She however noted that the country must be able to treat “extraordinary events “
The CARICOM meeting developed a regional protocol establishing minimum standards for dealing with the Covid-19 virus. She noted that this includes scaled up surveillance at ports of entry, the training of front line staff, strengthening laboratory capacity and the identification of quarantine and isolation facilities.
Prime Minister Mottley said the time had come for CARICOM member states to seriously consider the development of a safe facility that would be utilised in times of emergency.
“Let me say whether it is a public health outbreak, whether it is hurricane or other natural or man-made disaster I am satisfied that each country in the region needs some kind of facility that allows us to be able in times of emergency to be able to sustain the state or to allow the state to continue in a situation that is otherwise uncontainable,” she suggested.