If you eventually catch and laid low by the COVID-19 virus, you would be covered by National Insurance without need for a doctor-certified application for benefits, a senior Ministry of Health official has said.
And sick workers may be given five to seven days without official sick leave. The current limit is two consecutive days, after which a medical certificate is required.
Elements of the plan were revealed by Senior Medical Officer Dr Arthur Philips to a meeting of media managers with Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
But the change in policy is only to take effect under “Stage Three” of the Barbados National Pandemic Plan, which, according to Dr Phillips, would ease the burden on the health system.
So far, Barbados has no suspected or confirmed cases of the virus which has so far sickened 130,000 people worldwide.
Dr Philips said that all eight suspected cases here have tested negative for COVID-19.
Presently, Barbados remains at “Stage Zero” of the plan which focuses on enhanced surveillance at the country’s ports of entry, the activation of the Emergency Operation Centre and the identification of isolation and quarantine facilities, among other things.
Officials were today confident that Barbados was ready in the event the viral illness reaches our shores. Public health authorities say it is not a matter of if but when.
Health and Wellness Minister Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic revealed today that 500 kits to test for the Coronavirus COVID-19 will be on island early next week.
“On Monday we will be getting about 500 kits delivered from PAHO and the Government is also pursuing being able to purchase more kits as necessary,” he told the media managers at the Cabinet Office this morning.
Earlier this week, Lt. Col. Bostic had assured that Barbados, one of the few countries in the English-speaking Caribbean that can test for the virus that was first discovered in Wuhan, China last December, that Government would try to get as many kits available for use in the event that they are needed.
Declaring that Barbados was ready, Prime Minister Mottley said: “Barbados is comfortable where it is now and with us getting the additional 500 [kits] next week, we are comfortable where we are and we have still a good set [of tests].”
She noted that Government has also purchased 25 ventilators and provisions have been made to boost domestic food production by providing 750 acres of land.
The Prime Minister noted that as the virus got closer to the island, the task was to prevent the population from panicking.
She assured that a full plan was in place and the country was in a position to cope.
“Until everybody understands that we got this and that they need to be ready in their own community too… if a situation arises are we ready, we are ready, “ Mottley assured.
The new Czar for COVID-19, Richard Carter, who was on the front line of the battle to contain the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, warned that misinformation and panic are the biggest threats to Barbados’ ability to effectively respond to the Coronavirus outbreak.
“Which is why we are going back to the basics of following the science, operating on disciplined principled behaviours that have taken Barbados to where it is,” he told media managers this morning.
Carter also made a strong case for those people who deliberately spread fake news to feel the strong arm of the law.
He said: “I have heard an indication from the Government that persons who pervade news and go to the extent to badge their false news with the semblance of legitimacy by putting on logos and so on represents criminal behaviour and there is one response to criminal behaviour it is prosecution.”