BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday March 17, 2020 – The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has reached Barbados.
Minister of Health and Wellness Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic announced today that two people who came in from the United States have the virus. One is a 48-year-old male visitor who arrived on March 13 and the other, a 39-year-old Barbadian female who recently returned home.
He said the two had been experiencing symptoms of a viral infection and were sent for evaluation, and authorities were informed this morning that they both tested positive for COVID-19 which was first detected in China last November.
“Both patients are being managed for COVID-19 and have been placed in isolation, where they will remain until they recover,” Minister Bostic said.
In the meantime, the Ministry has initiated the process of contact tracing to identify every individual who came in close contact with these patients. They will all be placed in quarantine for 14 days.
“Our priority now as a Ministry is to ensure that COVID-19 is contained and to do all in our power to prevent in-country transmission,” Bostic said.
“As Minister of Health and Wellness in Barbados, I am committed to doing all in my power to protect the health and ensure the safety of every person resident here. I, therefore, want to assure the public that there is no need for panic. This is the time for vigilance and being our brother’s keeper.”
The country is now in Stage 1 of its National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in which the primary focus is containment to prevent community spread.
As a result, several measures have taken effect. All public gatherings such as sporting and cultural events or any event that attracts crowds will be restricted to 100 persons; visits by members of the public to all public and private geriatric institutions are suspended until further notice; and visits to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital are restricted to protect elderly patients as well as those suffering with non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
During an interview at Ilaro Court last night before any confirmed cases were announced, Prime Minister Mia Mottley called on Barbadians 70 years and over and those with health challenges to self-quarantine as much as possible for the next 12 weeks, as elderly persons were the most vulnerable segment of the population, along with persons suffering from NCDs.
Minister Bostic said this morning that an isolation centre has been set up with six isolation beds, and quarantine facilities are in place at the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) Paragon Base in the southern parish of Christ Church and the Elayne Scantlebury Centre in the north, in the parish of St Lucy. Additional quarantine and isolation facilities will be available in St Lucy within weeks, and the BDF’s Field Medical Facility has also been set up to provide additional screening, quarantine and isolation services.
Residents have been urged to play their part in preventing the spread of the virus in the country, by being vigilant about putting into practise the public health advice that includes: washing hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; practising social distancing, that is, maintain a distance of at least one metre or three feet from anyone who is visibly ill or who is coughing or sneezing; and avoiding touching mouth, eyes and nose; covering mouth and nose with tissue when coughing or sneezing or doing so into bent elbow.
Anyone with a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, especially if they were in an affected region within the previous 14 days or think they may have been in contact with someone who was, is advised to call their healthcare provider, the nearest polyclinic or the Ministry’s COVID-19 hotline (536-4500) for advice.
Several other Caribbean countries are dealing with COVID-19 cases, including: Aruba, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Jamaica, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, St Lucia, Saint Martin, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.
According to the World Health Organization, the total number of COVID-19 cases as of yesterday was 167,515 and there were 6,606 deaths. For the first time, the number of cases and deaths outside China overtook the total number in that East Asian country. There were 81,077 confirmed cases and 3,218 deaths in China and 86,434 confirmed cases and 3,388 deaths in 150 other countries.