The Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) fully supports our children’s right to face to face education. As doctors, we recognise the intrinsic value of school settings in children’s mental, emotional and physical well-being, development, socialization and access to high quality education. Our national priority at this time, must be to reopen our schools with strict public health guidelines, and to minimize disease transmission from homes to school settings. We therefore encourage parents not to send children to school if they are unwell and to allow them to be tested. We strongly recommend vaccination of eligible school-aged children and advise parents to seek credible information on vaccination through talking to your pediatricians and other medical doctors when making decisions.

BAMP continues to advocate for the collection of the best data to assess what is happening in our country. Rapid antigen testing with self-test kits has become widely available and many persons now forego the standard PCR test that allows official case recording. We urge the public to continue to present for standard PCR testing even after rapid testing. PCR testing confirms your result and if you are positive and become unwell, it allows greater access to immediate care.

BAMP continues to advocate for an increase in routine (surveillance) testing, both in country and at our borders, to allow for greater accuracy in estimating our COVID-19 disease burden and for detection of new variants. We therefore encourage Barbadians to be come forward and be willing to be tested, even if you or your children are asymptomatic, to help detect cases and to reduce spread of COVID-19.

It remains a fact that Barbados is not yet in the same immunological place, through vaccination, as seen in other countries. We must also not forget that even though the omicron variant of COVID-19 appears to be clinically milder, we are still dealing with a highly transmissible viral illness which must not be regarded as just another ‘flu’. This virus still causes severe disease and death in vulnerable populations and long term sickness in ways not yet fully understood. Any surge in cases, even if a small fraction becomes severely ill, will put additional pressure on our severely strained healthcare system. Therefore, a gradual, phased approach to withdrawal of public health restrictions, based on best available local data, must continue to occur with monitoring of effects.

While we may be near the end of the omicron wave, this pandemic is not likely to be ‘over’ as long as the potential for new variants remains high. In light of this, we urge Barbadians to continue to be cautious. Practice mask wearing, hand sanitization, social distancing and good hygiene. Avoid unrestricted mass gatherings and comply with public health protocols. Get tested if you are experiencing symptoms or if you are 3-4 days after a direct exposure to someone who has tested positive or is ill. If you have not been vaccinated please consider the fact that the current vaccines still offer good protection against severe illness and greater numbers vaccinated and boosted within the population, will reduce disease transmission.

One storm passing does not necessarily mean the end of a hurricane season. We must remain vigilant.

Dr. Lynda Williams
President, BAMP for BAMP COVID-19 Task Force.