As local health officials continue to battle a backlog of cases a decision has been taken to release people from quarantine who are asymptomatic and who have been awaiting their COVID-19 PCR test results.
The new system, which started on Thursday and will be done on a case-by-case basis, will see individuals being issued with a Certificate of Release from the Chief Medical Officer.
During a media briefing on Thursday evening, medical officials explained that it will apply to those who have reached or passed their 14 days in quarantine as well as those who are 10 to 13 days in quarantine.
In the case of the latter, they will be given a rapid antigen test as well as a clinical assessment before their release.
Senior Medical Officer of Health Dr Anton Best explained that the incubation period for the virus – the time from exposure to manifestation of disease – was between one to 14 days.
“So what we tried to do is apply that knowledge of the incubation period to match quarantine, and the quarantine is essentially defined as keeping a person away from interacting with other persons in the event that they really did get the disease. This is a standard thing and well documented throughout all of public health, and as advised by the WHO [World Health Organisation] and other health authorities,” he said.
“So we have applied the 14-day quarantine standard in many circumstances and we can also modify it, meaning, if you are able to do a test at some point you can actually reduce the time some person is actually in quarantine for if you introduce a diagnostic test for COVID-19.
“What we have decided to do is look at those persons who have been in quarantine for 14 days and once you have hit and completed that 14th day, you no longer need to be in quarantine,” he explained.
He added that medical officials will “look at a handful of people” who have completed ten days in quarantine, adding that while there was still a possibility for them to have the virus, they could simply undergo a rapid test and a clinical assessment to help determine if they could be released.
“That is what we have recommended as a Ministry of Health to the Cabinet and that is what we will be doing in a handful of circumstances,” said Best, who also explained that the extension of the curfew to the end of January was to continue to reduce social interactions and in an effort to implement and complete contact tracing which was started at the end of December.
Infectious Disease Specialist Dr Corey Forde also sought to give a rationale behind the new release policy, saying that over the past year officials have learned that asymptomatic people did not spread the disease after day ten.
“People who get COVID, in terms of their capacity to spread the disease, we know when you are past day ten you really can’t spread the disease to any extent. It then leads us to make one clear decision, and that is that people are released from [quarantine] at day 11 once you remain asymptomatic,” he explained.
He added that if a person comes to Barbados with a 72-hour window test and they have been in Barbados for 14 days without symptoms it made sense to release them from quarantine.
Stating that it was between day four and six that people were more likely to spread the virus, he added: “If you work that out and work out the other periods I mentioned, and then you add a test to that, putting that person back into the community is fine and there is really no significant challenges at all with that in terms of spread in the community,” he said, adding that it was a strategy being used by other countries and it was all about “following the science” but Barbados was always being “super cautious”. (MM)