Some hotels across Barbados are to become coronavirus isolation centres as the island expects an influx of visitors in coming weeks, some of them likely to be carrying the potentially lethal COVID-19, two ministers said Friday.
Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds and Minister of Health and Wellness Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic made the disclosure on Friday while addressing a Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) online seminar being held under the theme COVID-19: Resuming International Travel in the Caribbean.
At the same time, Bostic has signalled that no diplomat entering Barbados will be immune to presenting a valid PCR test or undergoing a test once they reach Bridgetown.
Sharing Barbados’ experiences so far on how it has been handling the recommencement of commercial flights, Bostic disclosed that one of the challenges officials experienced was the refusal of one diplomat to be tested.
Bostic opted not to say who the diplomat was or where the flight originated but issued a word of caution to other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states to be on the lookout for similar occurrences.
“We had one major issue with diplomats, and how do we treat to diplomats and especially diplomats who do not want to play ball and who want to cite diplomatic immunity, and who may not come with a valid test and then who refuse to take a test locally? This is a situation that we faced. In the end, we got it resolved, but I am just alerting my colleagues to this situation because it can happen to you as well,” said Lt Col Bostic.
“We felt very strongly that we had the right to refuse entry based on the fact that COVID-19 for us is a national situation and national security trumps anything else. Persons were adamant and we were even more adamant. So the matter was resolved because whatever testing [was] required actually, in the end, took place,” he added.
In relation to hotels becoming isolation facilities, officials did not identify the properties but said an agreement has already been reached and details were currently being worked out.
“In terms of the isolation of visitors, if visitors test positive on arrival, it is mandatory isolation. That has been included in the protocols. So they know that when they are coming here that is the situation, and that isolation could be at a government institution, which we have established at Harrison’s Point, and we are also working to have a couple [of] hotels that would facilitate the isolation of visitors who are asymptomatic and that would be sanctioned by the Ministry of Health and Wellness,” said Lt Col Bostic.
He said those who are placed in quarantine and those in isolation at hotels for “seven days or more depending on the region they are coming from” would be checked on “passively or by actual visits at least twice a day”.
Further speaking to the matter of isolation at hotels, Symmonds said he expected the current systems in place at the airport to become somewhat challenged and therefore to avoid this, authorities and members of the accommodation sector have agreed to have some hotels become “satellite stations” for testing.
“In order to facilitate the throughput of traffic, even though this is the first week of our recommencement we are already seeing the bookings increased and from next weekend they are going to be having for example, on Saturday, three flights arriving within a couple [of] hours of each other. That means the testing facility at our airport is going to become substantially challenged if we do not ensure there are external areas where we can have testing being done,” said Symmonds.
“We have come to an agreement and we are in the process of trying to flesh out any of the kinks in the system or any concerns surrounding and attendant to that agreement, so that we can have satellite stations which would be hotels that are of the size and design that easily accommodate persons going there, being transported immediately after they left immigration and customs,” he said.
Symmonds said he was confident that test results could be presented in as little as six hours depending on the traffic on a particular day “but we have given all visitors an outer window of a 24-hour period”.
“So they would spend a day in the holding hotel before they continue about their business,” said Symmonds.
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