It is not what doctors in Barbados hoped would occur, but they expected that once the Delta variant of COVID-19 took hold in communities, it would spread like nothing the island had experienced.
What has also compounded the situation is the still significant numbers of persons who have not taken the near 75 000 doses of various vaccines still available to help inoculate adults and children over the age of 12 years.
But the president of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP), Dr. Lynda Williams, is cautioning citizens that there is absolutely no need to panic. The experienced medical practitioner and epidemiologist, who has been quite outspoken and deliberate in articulating the recommendations of her fraternity, said panic will achieve nothing good.
“BAMP made its recommendations in July, in keeping with what we expected to happen if the Delta variant was in the community in Barbados. None of this is taking us by surprise.
“We predicted and used some of the models that had been produced, that once the Delta variant was in the community, in our largely unvaccinated population, that it would spread extremely quickly and that measures were needed to restrict movement and gatherings in order to curb the spread of the virus ahead of getting the vaccines out to people,” the epidemiologist explained.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Mia Mottley appeared in a nationally broadcast address, urging Barbadians to continue to exercise caution and implored them to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
She also announced that the country was moving to mandate the vaccination of secondary school children against the highly infectious and deadly viral illness.
The Prime Minister reiterated the evidence that the vast majority of persons in primary care at the Harrison Point, St Lucy Isolation Facility were unvaccinated. Moreover, an increasing number of young people, including many under the age of 18 were becoming infected.
While rejecting some calls for a lockdown, Mottley, however, announced a tightening of curfew restrictions.
In an early response to the announcement, Dr. Williams noted: “We have been calling for these measures because without restriction in movement and gatherings, we cannot vaccinate our population fast enough given the amount of spread that is already in existence today.
“We welcome any steps taken, and we are still hoping to see how these measures taken will impact. If you introduce a measure, you look for the impact. If you are not seeing the impact that you need, then you look at what else you may have to do.”
Regarding the number of minors who are testing positive for COVID-19, the BAMP president reflected that what was occurring in Barbados was a similar pattern of the disease’s manifestation in other countries.
She explained that with very limited vaccines approved to be administered to children, that segment of the population remained vulnerable. And so, it was especially incumbent on adults who can take the vaccine to do so to protect those who cannot receive it.
Dr. Williams warned: “This variant is not a respecter of age. It does not need comorbidities. It can simply infect anyone.
“This is what we have been saying to people repeatedly. You do not know how it will affect you because your body has never had any experience with it before.
“What we have found is that people who have only had mild forms of the disease have since gone on to develop ‘long COVID’ and other morbidities.”
And while the BAMP president is very concerned about the rapid increase in COVID-19 infections, she cautioned that pushing the panic button is not an option.
While conceding there was increased anxiety about the COVID-19 situation on the island, she offered some timely advice.
“Panic does not produce the kind of outcomes that anybody wants. Whether it is a hurricane or COVID-19 infections. There has to be a level of the firm, bold decision-making, and a calm introduction of measures.
“If we go into a state of panic, what that will lead to is more spread of the disease. There is never any good in panicking. We have to be strategic, and we have to involve as many players that can assist in the effort as possible.
“There is room for everyone, including the private sector. There is a role for the unions, for the public sector, and for each and every Barbadian in this fight. If we panic, we will bring more woe to ourselves. There is never a reason to panic. Things have stepped up, and we must start to play our individual roles. (IMC1)
This article appears in the September 10 edition of COVID Dispatch. Read the full publication here.