There is much concern among the island’s medical fraternity regarding the government’s safe zones that are yet to be formally rolled out.
With Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic having already admitted to flaws in the measures as initially conceptualised and having returned to the drawing board with the project, the spokesman for the dental sector is expressing concern that these safe spaces are being created based predominantly on vaccine requirements.
“Creating this vaccine status only as a safe space is ridiculous because every time a new virus comes up you are going to have the same nonsense going on, which is basically saying, maybe the vaccine doesn’t work effectively,” President of the Dental Association of Barbados Dr Vidya Armogan said on Thursday.
“So you are only creating more issues and you are creating a divide between vaccinated and unvaccinated people,” Dr Armogan told Barbados TODAY.
The outspoken doctor is adamant that while vaccines are key to keeping the island open and providing a measure of protection against the virus, it cannot be the sole requirement for permitting people safely into these zones.
“We have to get people vaccinated. But outside of that, I am saying vaccinated or unvaccinated people can come into a safe zone and stay relatively safe because we have put other things in place. We are not depending on vaccine status, we still want that because, like the mask, the vaccine status is still going to help us protect those people,” Dr Armogan added.
He argued that if the safe zones initiative is done properly as it is managed in the dental community, there is a 95 to 99 per cent chance of people not getting infected.
The medical specialist noted that since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in Barbados not a single dentist or patient has been infected in any of their offices.
“And it is not because we waited on a vaccine. We didn’t even have vaccines at the time. It is because we went ahead, we put protocols in place to screen the people coming in, distanced them; so by physically restricting people into a space, making sure they were masked and when we unmasked them they were protocols in place to suck away the air and filter it in the office space where we are creating aerosols,” Dr Armogan pointed out.
“That experience has taught us what we can do to protect the public in an environment. And that is all we are saying. We are saying that Barbados’ safe zones are calm; it’s that kind of place. If people are willing to create these spaces we can do it,” he suggested.
The dental official urged business owners and operators not to try to cram large numbers in a small space when it is safer to accommodate a few and avoid the country having to shut down periodically.
“If we all do the right thing in our businesses, we create safe spaces for our employees, we create safe spaces for our patrons, we will be fine,” Dr Armogan observed.
With respect to the emerging variants, the dental specialist warned that they will continue to grow and spread “forever” particularly because too many people are refusing to take the injection.
“There are going to be variants that will come up that vaccines will not be effective against; we know that. This is the problem we are going to have around the world because people are choosing not to get vaccinated,” he warned.
“Because of that, variants will be allowed to grow and spread. So that is a problem we are going to have forever,” the senior medical practitioner cautioned.
On the question of banning people from entering Barbados from countries where the latest variant has appeared Dr Armogan noted that it won’t stop a great influx, but some will still slip through.
“So yes, you may stop 1 000 people, but you will still get ten people coming through you are not going to catch. So that’s fine. However, when the ten do get through, the whole point of it…and it is really frustrating that we have been put into this mindset about vaccines,” Dr Armogan argued.
In the meantime, government is continuing consultations with the stakeholders in the various sectors as it reviews the safe zone measures which health authorities had hoped to implement on December 1.
The intention is to roll out the zones in the healthcare sector first followed by the hotel and tourism industry.