The coronavirus restrictions are failing to stem the rising tide of infections linked to the Delta variant, a University of the West Indies epidemiologist suggested Wednesday as she joined the nation’s doctors association calling for current measures to be strengthened.
Dr Natasha Sobers-Grannum, a lecturer in public health and epidemiology at UWI Cave Hill, has raised the possibility of 700 to 800 COVID-19 cases per day, based on the current trajectory of the ‘Delta wave’ which may be peaking.
She recommended further restrictions to bring the highly contagious and infectious COVID-19 variant under control.
At present a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is in place, in-house dining is prohibited at fast food restaurants, indoor sports are banned and restrictions are in place at places of worship.
Speaking during a press conference with COVID-19 public advisor David Ellis, Dr Sobers-Grannum said she was in full agreement with suggestions by president of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) Dr Lynda Williams for no-movement days to be enforced and for a decrease in the number of people allowed inside bars and rum shops, social events, places of worship and commercial businesses.
But the UWI expert said she would not recommend a total lockdown at this time as it would do more harm than good.
She told journalists: “The measures that are in place have not so far slowed down the pandemic so I would very much be in alignment with BAMP and BAMP’s recommendations that we should have no movement days and a little bit more restrictions, so I would say yes that the restrictions we have in place are not sufficient to slow it down.
“I will also recognize that the movement restrictions have other effects that we may not want, economic effects but also NCD effects, so we recognize that a full lockdown like what we had before is not likely to have the effect that it had before and is likely to have negative effects that we don’t want, but we should be going one step further at least.”
She explained that the effects of no-movement days would not be seen until at least 20 days later.
She further pointed out that while no-movement days is a short-term initiative, the long-term goal is still to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
Dr Sobers-Grannum gave support for the concept of safe zones introduced on Monday by Prime Minister Mottley, but suggested these be extended further.
Mottley said only vaccinated people or unvaccinated persons with a negative PCR test would be allowed in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department, Medical Intensive Care Unit and Surgical Intensive Care Unit along with nursing homes and elderly homes, isolation facilities and health care institutions.
But Dr Sobers-Grannum called for additional locations to be included on the list.
She said: “I’m not sure about all of the details of the safe zone concept but I do like the idea of the safe zone concept. I’ve seen it in Trinidad, I’ve seen it in Guyana and I do like that idea because I like the idea that if you want to say ‘vaccination is my choice’ then you will also have the rights and choices come with responsibilities.
“I’ve seen it work in Guyana where you can’t go to gyms and movie theatres and so on. I don’t know what we are going to do. So far I’ve only seen hospital places which is fine because I think we absolutely need to start there but I would even extend the safe zones to gyms and movie theatres, places where people go to congregate and are at risk.”
Speaking on yesterday’s record-breaking 342 new COVID-19 cases, Dr Sobers-Grannum said there was a possibility the real figure could actually be two or three times higher, as reported cases were usually an underestimate of actual cases in the community.
Using models, she predicted a worst-case scenario of a positivity rate that had moved from 90 infections per 100,000 tests to 125 per 100,000.
She said this was mainly because the protocols were not being followed.
But she pointed out those numbers were at their peak and were expected to level out in the coming weeks.
“We are currently projecting that the numbers should begin to go down within the next month or so, the next 30 days we should start to level off,” Dr Sobers-Grannum told journalists. “The 60-day projection still has us at about 25 per 100,000 which is where we were back in August.”