Authorities are “aggressively investigating” an outbreak of coronavirus at a northern church, which they have linked to all nine of the newest infections, the Minister of Health announced Friday.
Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic named the World Harvest Ministries in Speightstown as the source of the latest COVID-19 cluster after reports surfaced earlier this week that 19 members of the church had tested positive.
Speaking during a nationally televised press briefing, Lt Col Bostic said of the 576 tests conducted Thursday there were 12 new positive cases.
The positivity rate – the percentage of all coronavirus tests performed that show someone has COVID-19 – remains at less than three per cent but the health minister said it was concerning that three of those 12 positives had previously been at Harrison’s Point for assessment, meaning that the nine new cases were all connected with the church cluster.
The Minister of Health said: “Regrettably all nine of those cases are positives and are related directly and indirectly to the church cluster in the north. Directly because there are two families from the north comprising four and three members each that were directly connected to this church that tested positive and then there was a family of two indirectly connected because they were connected directly to one of the other institutions that has been impacted by this church cluster.
“And although these figures and these stats are low my concern and the concern of the ministry is the fact that they are all related to this church cluster and this right now is occupying the attention more than anything else of the Ministry of Health and Wellness in our fight against the COVID pandemic.”
To make the situation even more worrisome, Lt Col Bostic said it appeared as though some people were deliberately evading health authorities trying to track them down.
He pleaded with those who might have been exposed to the cluster to get tested, saying Barbados could not afford to lose the gains made in the fight against the pandemic.
“So I appeal to all Barbadians in general and particularly to all persons associated with the church in the north, that cluster, if you have not yet been contacted by the Ministry of Health officials it is because we have not been told about your exposure and in cases where we have been told we have not been able to find you because I would have to say that you are hiding,” Lt Col Bostic maintained.
“This is a serious thing and it is a serious thing because we cannot afford to slip up and even if you do not care about your own health and wellness and your well being, I care, the Ministry of Health cares, the Government of Barbados we care, and so we want to find you because if you remain in hiding, if you remain knowing that you have symptoms and you present too late it could be detrimental to your health.”
The minister also did not rule out the possibility of action being taken against the leadership of the church.
“Any and everything that has to be done will be done. I can assure you that the leadership of the church is in quarantine at a Government quarantine facility and as investigations by the public health teams continue then we will be in a better position to see what we are dealing with but nothing at this stage is ruled out, but our focus at the moment is really to try and get these people and all persons to come in and be tested because the aim is to contain the spread of the virus and to dig a hole so to speak in this cluster because we don’t want it to get out of hand,” Bostic said. (RB)