Hands, face and space. These are the three words residents and businesses owners are being encouraged to keep in mind, as the island declares community spread of COVID-19.
This plea comes from Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Anton Best, as he sought to give businesses a clearer understanding around when they should have employees tested, and the different protocols they should follow, if any positive cases are returned.
“Hands, face and space – one simple phrase, three powerful words. Hands: good hand hygiene is critical. Face: you must always wear a face mask. Space: physical distancing and social distancing. This is a message that we are not ever going to get tired of saying, and we should never get tired of hearing it, because this is critical to the prevention and control of COVID-19 in Barbados,” he explained.
Dr. Best also said individuals who were in secondary contact with COVID-19 patients [being in contact with a person, who was in contact with a COVID-19 patient] did not need to get immediately tested, as the chances of them contracting the virus in that instance, was extremely low.
“Dr [Carl] Ward would have explained the importance of differentiating between primary contacts, and secondary contacts, and this is very important. What we saw happening, were a lot of people were reacting based on being a secondary contact, and then going off and getting tested or quarantining, and not under the guidance of the Ministry of Health and the public health officials who would have identified the primary contacts.
“Panic is what we want to avoid. We also want to avoid automatic closures of businesses, and we also want to avoid the notion of all employees in a business needing to be tested. Everything that is done, needs to be guided by the Ministry of Health protocols, and our approach to contact tracing,” Dr. Best said.
Barbadians visiting business locations on the island are also advised that because of their limited time within these establishments, exposure to COVID-19 while they are on these sites is also low.
“I also need to remind persons that there is a risk to employees in a business, and there is a risk to customers. The risk to customers is relatively low, and I say that because customers come into a business for only a brief period of time and they leave. A primary contact is defined by space – so within a six-foot radius, and time. Usually it’s 15 minutes or more for someone to be determined to be a primary contact in the absence of wearing a mask.
“So if you think about it, the persons who are there for the longest are actually the employees of the business, so when we talk about the strategies that govern a business place in terms of COVID prevention, yes we focus a lot on the customers, but we also focus on what the employees do,” he said.
Best explained that the safety protocols being run by business, have more often than not, led to low COVID-19 positive numbers within workplaces. (SB)