There are 11 “hotspot” communities where the coronavirus is being spread, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) disclosed Monday as the Ministry of Health and Wellness rolled out a new contact tracing programme aimed at bringing at-risk people into care quickly.
Dr Kenneth George said the programme had been implemented following the development of a worrisome trend where families were responsible for several clusters of COVID-19 cases across the island.
He would not reveal which communities were being targeted.
In one case, 16 people from the same household had tested positive for COVID-19, he told journalists.
Dr George said 40 people had already been moved to quarantine after they were deemed to be in high-risk environments.
And the CMO said he was especially concerned that there could be asymptomatic persons living in those communities.
Dr George said: “We have seen a new pattern that a lot of the contacts are occurring in families, so we’re having cases that there is spread of the disease at the community level but in the household, so we’re having persons living in one household and who associate with another household that is close by who may be affected by COVID and that is how it is being transmitted.
“So what the Ministry of Health is attempting to do is yet put another strategy that builds on the Seek and Save, that strengthens the work that Seek and Save has done to again identify those high-risk communities, identify individuals in those high-risk communities who have symptoms, sample a section of the population that do not have symptoms and get those persons into treatment and care.
“We have instituted a fairly new programme wherein persons who live in certain communities and based on their level of risk we are bringing them into care, we are bringing them into designated quarantine hotels. We currently have 40 individuals in our quarantine hotels who have been identified as living in communities with high risk…and indeed of those 40, 16 of those individuals have tested positive from a single household.”
He said the 47 people who tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday made up several clusters of families.
The medical chief said: “There is one large cluster and about four or five smaller clusters within that 47 and we intend to target those individuals and make sure that they are identified early and brought into care.
“We have a situation where you are having several families living on one portion of land. I would encourage that families from a particular house be careful how you integrate with families from another house because way too often what we are finding is that multiple households within a particular district are being infected because there is too much movement of individuals and I would like to encourage Barbadians for the next six to eight weeks please remain to yourself.”
The CMO explained that health authorities were especially interested in tracing primary contacts.
He said the Ministry of Health and Wellness was increasing the numbers of personnel in an effort to bolster its contact tracing efforts.
Dr George said: The ministry has reviewed this process and we are on the cusp of bringing on four additional persons with Masters in Public Health background or in the field of epidemiology to add that layer to the ministry’s response.
“In addition to this, we have scaled up the foot soldiers, the persons in the field, who have to go and actually interact with persons on a daily basis and then we have also identified a team to do the swabbing. The swabbing will lead to either a rapid antigen test and or a full PCR test.”