Minister of Health and Wellness Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic is defending the Government’s decision to allow commercial flights from high-risk countries that are battling a second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Speaking in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, he said Barbados depended heavily on international trade and tourism to generate revenue needed for various aspects of the economy, including the health sector.
“Obviously, with tens of thousands of Barbadians being unemployed or who became unemployed as a result of the lockdown, that significantly impacted the Treasury and, so, the anticipated revenue was not there.
“And there are other things to this as well. If you lock down, we have utility companies in this country that depend on technicians [and] maintenance people from overseas to come to be able to do maintenance work here. Even the very lab that has done over 33 000 [COVID-19] tests, they depend sometimes on people to come in to fix equipment, refurbish equipment and, in some cases, even install and validate new testing equipment,” Bostic said.
The Minister of Health was responding to Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley who raised concerns about Government allowing flights to come in from countries experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Bostic acknowledged that with the significant increase in commercial flights to the country, Barbados will continue to record cases going into the early part of 2021, but insisted that the country has the management of the pandemic under control.
He also pointed out that in a matter of weeks, Government will be utilising a digital platform, including mobile applications and tracking bracelets, to monitor people in quarantine centres.
“I am happy to report that in the very near future that we will be rolling out these applications. Mobile app one, which is called BIM Safe, that is the information gateway and inputting information – online forms, even the test results and so forth, from persons coming in. Health monitors and systems tracker, that is one that is well on the way. The other one is BIM Safe Tracer. That is an anonymous contact tracer that will significantly enhance our capacity to do contact tracing in this country,” he explained.
“The third one, and very important one, is BIM Safe band. That is . . . a water-resistant, tamper-proof wristband and we have ordered about 150,000 of those because when we put that on you if you are in quarantine, we will be able to monitor your movement. If you are restricted to a room in your hotel and you move out we will know. If you try to take it off we will know; and that gives a level of protection to this country that I think will make every Barbadian feel safer than they do now,” he added.
The Minister also informed that through an effort facilitated by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Government has made a down payment to secure the COVID-19 vaccine for 20 per cent of the population whenever it becomes available. (AH)