A senior medical official has warned Barbadians that zero COVID-19 cases at this time does not mean the disease has gone anywhere and he is urging them to maintain the prevention practices.
Dr Kenneth Connell, a senior lecturer in clinical pharmacology in the Cave Hill Campus’ Department of Medicine, University of the West Indies, says one of the main reasons the island has achieved COVID-19 free status was due to the decision to close the borders.
“We are now moving into a phase where we are soon going to be opening the borders and there will be infections, of course, because the virus has not gone anywhere. The COVID-19 virus will enter Barbados again,” the medical practitioner advised during the CBC-TV 8 programme, The People’s Business.
“This is now the true test,” he said of the public health measures such as wearing of masks, maintaining social distancing and all of the other things that “people get bored of doing or tend to forget”.
“So while it is important that we celebrate our success rate, we also have to be very realistic. It is like saying to someone ‘I no longer drink alcohol and I am sober for all this time’, but you don’t have any access to alcohol, so there is no test to see whether you can resist the challenge,” he observed.
Barbados has gone 36 days with no positive COVID tests on the island. Of the 97 persons who contracted the illness since the first case in March, 90 have fully recovered and are out of the isolation treatment centres, while seven persons have died.
According to Dr. Connell: “When we open our borders again, and the virus is now in our community again, how we manage this will really be the true measure of our success because COVID-19 will return to Barbados. And if we continue to be comfortable and wear your masks halfway across your face or wear it intermittently, then the spread will continue again.
“If we continue to say, I don’t want to leave home and I am going to stay at home because COVID-19 is here, then our country will never continue its economic thrust. We will not get back to work and it will never be business as usual. We have to learn to live with COVID-19 in our midst. We also have to learn not to pretend that the reason we have zero cases in Barbados now isn’t by coincidence or because God is a Bajan. It is because our borders were closed.”
And as the country prepares to welcome scheduled international flights from the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and the Caribbean, Dr Connell said the protocols for the treatment of visitors from countries still battling the disease were paramount.
“Our borders are our first line of defence. . . . So if you bring people into the country you have to test them and test them credibly. For example, you have to validate the labs that they have been tested at and if they have not been tested, then you have to have some mechanism in place to test them on site.
“If they have not been tested then you do not know whether they are positive or not. You have to be able to track them and put them under quarantine because our population is at risk. All these are measures that reduce the risk but that is all they do – they reduce the risk. It doesn’t mean there will never be another case of COVID 19,” the UWI lecturer pointed out.
“What will eventually happen is that we will learn to live with COVID-19. I am sure even with the best defence system in any country, some amount of COVID is going to reach the general community. It is how we manage that equilibrium.”