Yearend celebrations and election campaigning have not been scuttled despite the week-long upsurge in COVID-19 cases and the confirmation of the Omicron variant here, but Barbadians will have to cope with some limitations and strict protocols.
Head of the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit Ronald Chapman revealed Thursday, the eve of New Year’s Eve, that applications for six events on Friday night have been approved, five for Saturday and one for January 2 – all outdoor events.
He told a news conference at Ilaro Court that more applications are anticipated but served notice that all protocols must be followed.
“As part of the protocols, both the promoter and staff for the event have to be vaccinated and tested on the night of the event. The patrons will either be vaccinated or tested one day prior to the event,” Chapman reiterated.
“These protocols are put in place so as to ensure that we have events that are low risk and that persons can enjoy some semblance of normalcy for the Old Year’s Night and New Year’s Day. I must emphasise that only those organized or approved events are allowed at this time,” he added.
Turning to election campaigning which is expected to heat up in the coming days ahead of the January 19, 2022 general elections, Chapman said protocols used in the St George South by-election would be tweaked and enforced to ensure the voting process is safe for all Barbadians.
“You will realise that a lot of meetings and events will be streamed. Spot meetings and so on are still allowed, they will still go on and there are a number restrictions and so on in terms of the larger political events,” he noted.
According to Chapman, political parties have agreed to host three large events.
“And those large events, the restrictions will be 500 persons at this time. This is in keeping with other events that we are presently having, so there is synchronicity within the events and so on,” the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit head said.
He assured that the unit would be able to keep close watch of events, noting that it had previously engaged people from the 30 polling districts to assist with monitoring events.
Chapman noted that the unit would also be reinforced by police.
“I must say, though, that crowd management and control is firmly in the grasp of the Barbados Police Service and the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit is there to assist wherever necessary and possible,” he pointed out.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George assured that the protocols governing elections were in line with guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation and the Commonwealth.
Insisting the island must return to a level of normalcy, he maintained the measures were designed to keep citizens safe.
“The normal functions of Government must continue and, therefore, we have had several examples of elections during a COVID period. Guyana, I think they were the first, there were elections in St Lucia and I think four other CARICOM countries had elections in a COVID environment so that from a public health perspective I am happy that those protocols address the following areas: the pre-election process with respect to the mass gatherings of people and pop-up meetings, the nomination process, the Election Day process, the counting of ballots and all of those behind-the-scene operations that we have taken into account while we came up with the protocols,” Dr George said.
“So the protocols are designed to give good guidance so that they won’t be [any] spread of COVID within this type of environment, and I am sure if persons follow there will not be any cases of it,” he added.