The Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) has voiced its disapproval over Government’s latest decision not to test fully vaccinated visitors coming to the island and to make outdoor mask-wearing optional.
President and co-chair of the BAMP COVID-19 Task Force, Dr Lynda Williams is urging Government to urgently reconsider its most recent changes which were announced on Saturday and will take effect from May 25.
In making the announcement Prime Minister Mia Mottley said given the downward trajectory in positive COVID-19 patients the island has been recording since its initial spike in March, health officials agreed there could be a slight relaxation in some of the protocols.
She said outdoor wearing of masks would become optional even though masks were still required to be worn indoors and on public transport.
However, BAMP argued that both changes would be counterproductive in the fight against COVID-19.
Dr Williams contended that failure to test fully vaccinated visitors meant new strains of the respiratory virus would not be detected.
Furthermore, she suggested that the definition of fully vaccinated be changed to include persons who had vaccines and boosters at the appropriate intervals only.
“We have noted the decision to remove any testing requirements for ‘fully vaccinated’ persons entering the country. If our definition of fully vaccinated remains the same, by removing any testing requirements for these persons, we will have removed any opportunity to detect infection among the majority of persons entering the country and to conduct surveillance for new variants at the borders.
“BAMP cannot, therefore, support the decision to remove all testing requirements for the ‘fully vaccinated’ entering through our borders, as defined at this time. We recommend urgent reconsideration of this proposed measure,” Dr Williams stated in a press release.
Along with recommending that the country’s mask mandate remain unchanged, Dr Williams also called for all persons attending mass events, whether vaccinated or not to be tested.
The BAMP president said she was unsure why rapid antigen tests were now valid for 48 hours, instead of the usual 24 hours.
She said saliva testing had proven to be “quick, effective and less intrusive” and should be considered as a means of testing for COVID-19.
“BAMP maintains that wearing masks is one of the most important and effective public health interventions in reducing disease transmission. In many countries with higher population vaccination rates than Barbados, when mask requirements were removed there was an uptick in both cases and deaths, even with the Omicron subvariant. We recommend therefore, that except in instances where all persons attending an outdoor mass gathering have had a negative rapid test taken within 24 hours, mask requirements for the general population should remain unchanged.
“Given that our mass gathering events and festivals will not be limited to persons who are appropriately vaccinated, we therefore strongly recommend that all providers and patrons attending a mass gathering event, festival, party cruise or nightclub, show evidence of a recent rapid antigen test taken no more than 24 hours prior to attending,” BAMP further advised.
The medical body also called for every avenue to be explored to increase the vaccine uptake, particularly among the most vulnerable and healthcare and frontline workers.
BAMP reiterated the need for genomic testing to be done in Barbados to allow for “an appropriate and dynamic response” to increases in cases and timely detection of new variants. [email protected]