Some visitors to Barbados have been presenting bogus vaccination certificates and COVID-19 test results to avoid quarantine, Minister of Health and Wellness Colonel Jeffrey Bostic has revealed.
However, he gave the assurance that those individuals have not been slipping through the cracks.
Bostic also dismissed any suggestion that visitors should shoulder the blame for the rise in the COVID-19 cases here.
The Health Minister was responding to questions from members of the media after accepting a donation of 27 purpose-built Dell laptops that will be used to run specialized software in the various phases of the COVID-19 immunization administration, distribution and overall logistics process.
Bostic confirmed there were individuals entering the island with forged COVID-19 related documents, but told Barbados TODAY that officials at the airport have been on the alert and have been able to stop the frauds in their tracks.
“Yes, we have been seeing this [forged vaccination certificates]. We have been seeing false test results as well, and things coming from labs that we do not approve,” he said.
“Our team at the airport, they are very vigilant and they have demanded that persons coming in, either with vaccine certificates or test results that we do not recognize, that they be tested and go through the normal procedures at the airport. So we know this is an issue but we are trusting our team at the airport to continue to do the very vigilant job they are doing,” he added.
Bostic also sought to give the assurance that adequate systems were in place to deal with the gradual and expected subsequent rapid increase in visitor arrivals to the island.
At the same time, he insisted that the responsibility of ensuring safety in the ongoing pandemic “rests with every single one of us doing the right things” and not just with visitors.
“Visitors will come because if they don’t, then that is another set of problems that we don’t want to see or have because we have experienced that before. We are doing everything possible at our ports of entry, and also by the COVID Unit going around and doing what they have to do,” the Health Minister said.
He said “the vast majority” of cases recorded here were among locals, adding that “COVID has been in Barbados for a long time and it has not left the country. What has changed in Barbados is how people respond and react to the protocols”.
“But yes, we as the Ministry of Health, we have a responsibility also in relation to visitors and that is why the protocols in Barbados, irrespective of where you come from, even if mask wearing is not mandatory or encouraged in your country, it is in Barbados and you will follow the protocols we have here in Barbados,” Bostic added.
Officials are expected to say, by this weekend, how many visitors are among the COVID-19 cases this week.
Minister Bostic also hinted that some tourism stakeholders were not displaying strict adherence to the COVID-19 measures in place to stem the spread of the disease.
Opting not to share the details, Bostic would only say that while additional improvements have been made in the area of quarantine, there were still a few areas of concern, as he pointed to the need for greater sensitization training among taxi drivers and other stakeholders.
He said health officials were expected to meet with representatives from the tourism industry, airport officials and other stakeholders “to be able to do some things to address those issues”.
“We want everyone to be sharp, to be vigilant and to be aware,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George defended Government’s decision to consider visitors with mixed vaccines fully vaccinated under the country’s travel protocols.
“We don’t make decisions lightly,” Dr George told Barbados TODAY.
“We personally reached out to the Pan-American Health Organization office and they gave us information that there are studies there that show that they are indeed efficacious. So when decisions are made, they are not made loosely, and they are made based on consultation with our partners and based on the evidence.”
Late last week, the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. updated the protocols to reflect the position that individuals with mixed vaccines would be categorized as fully vaccinated, following concerns raised by travellers in the international press.([email protected])