BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, March 2, CMC – Health authorities in Barbados have identified 11 COVID-19 hot spots in communities across the island and will be heading into those areas to identify and isolate primary contacts, Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George has said.
He made the disclosure during a press briefing and update Monday evening on the Ministry’s contact tracing strategies to curb the spread of the viral illness.
Emphasising that contact tracing was the main tool, next to vaccination, in suppressing the outbreak, George said intelligence gathered from teams in the field revealed a number of high-risk communities.
However, he declined to publicly disclose those hot spots.
“We require the public’s cooperation. So, persons will be coming and asking you a few questions. In addition to that, we will be offering testing. We’re looking at about 11 hot spots. I don’t want to name the hot spots for many reasons, because this is not about pointing fingers; this is about controlling the spread of disease. So, we are going to work quietly in these communities,” George said.
The Chief Medical Officer further noted that health officials had noticed a “new pattern” where many of the primary contacts were occurring in families.
He added that while the disease was spreading at the community level, it was being transmitted mostly from household to household within neighbourhoods.
One of the strategies the Ministry has implemented is taking individuals out of their homes based on their level of risk, and placing them in designated quarantine hotels to reduce the spread of the virus within families.
So far, 40 such individuals who live in high-risk communities and in crowded homes have been placed in quarantine. George divulged that 16 of those from a single household have since tested positive for COVID-19.
He pointed out that the Best-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory had the capacity to facilitate the testing of those picked up in contact tracing efforts, since it was currently up-to-date and had the ability to process up to 2,000 samples per day.
George added that the aim was to increase testing “to get a good feel as to the level of COVID in the population”.
To bolster the effort, he said the Ministry would be bringing on four additional persons who were well trained in public health and epidemiology. Additionally, it has scaled up the number of persons in the field doing contact tracing and has identified a team to conduct swabbing.
The Chief Medical Officer urged Barbadians to further assist in the contact tracing initiative by remaining at home for the next six to eight weeks, wherever possible, and remaining in their bubbles.
He stressed that COVID-19 could be around for another 12 to 18 months and, therefore, the public could not let its guard down.
Although acknowledging that Barbados has dealt with infectious diseases in recent years, George emphasised that “this current COVID environment is one which has stretched the Government’s ability to respond, the Ministry of Health’s ability to respond, and therefore, this is the pandemic that requires a much greater response from the public at large”.