The Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) remains concerned at the steep upward trajectory of the epidemic curve for Barbados at this time. The 7-day average of cases is greater than 250 per day with an average of 2 deaths per day. While these rates may not seem alarming when compared to other countries, the highly transmissible delta variant is now affecting every aspect of our society and our most precious resource, our children, in greater numbers.
In addition, Barbados now has a significant double-burden of disease, with SARS CoV-2 infection largely in a population with high rates of obesity, asthma, hypertension and diabetes, all risk factors for severe COVID-19. Our ability to maintain existing health services at the QEH and polyclinics is currently stretched to capacity, as human and other resources are shifted towards care for patients with COVID-19. Patients with chronic Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are frequently presenting with late-stage complications, largely due to delays in care. We are also concerned that the full impact of delays in elective surgeries, antenatal care, immunizations and primary health services, is yet to be seen.
Vaccines have been shown to mitigate transmission of COVID-19. At present, 41% of the total population is fully vaccinated and though commendable, we reiterate the fact that transmission of the delta variant, predominantly in the unvaccinated, is well ahead of our population immunity.
BAMP recommends urgent adoption of the following measures:
1) Mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers. This has precedent and could be adopted immediately if supported by political will.
2. 2) Mandatory vaccination of key frontline workers: Amendments to existing legislation are needed to ensure police and security forces, port workers, fire and emergency personnel, and tourism and restaurant employees are protected through vaccination.
3. 3) Incentivization of vaccination by the private sector: Encourage businesses to offer widespread discounts to the vaccinated as well as discounts for other healthy lifestyle practices.
4. 4) Limitation of movement and gathering: Reducing opportunity for disease transmission during the time required to develop immunity, is a population strategy based on well-established public health principles. We believe that good communication of the need for these measures, instituted for a well-defined period of time, is key. BAMP calls for urgent reconsideration of the numbers allowed to gather in bars and rum shops, social events/meetings, indoor venues, places of worship, and commercial businesses. It is from these social interactions that the virus is brought back to the household to spread within families. We also call for days of no/limited movement to be instituted, with the purpose of increasing community vaccination on these days.
5. 5) Improving communication: We recommend use of champions, from different sectors of society, to speak to their peers about vaccine hesitancy and personal responsibility in reducing transmission over a ‘top-down’ approach.
BAMP wholeheartedly supports the current efforts at home isolation and quarantine. We recognize that isolation of asymptomatic, vaccinated cases, with no underlying chronic illnesses, in appropriately secure settings, poses little threat to society. We want to advise the public that home isolation and quarantine are managed programmes and if it is appropriate for you to isolate or quarantine at home, or to be released from home isolation or home quarantine, this must be determined by a physician authorized by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
Dr. Lynda Williams
President and Co-Chair BAMP COVID-19 Task Force