Barbados Today:- The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has slapped Barbados with a “level 4 – Avoid travel” alert to its citizens, the highest warning issued by the US government in the pandemic.
In a move likely triggered by a surge in coronavirus infections that has overwhelmed the public health system, the CDC warning comes even as Barbados ramps up its vaccination programme.
The advisory could deliver a major blow to the island’s tourism industry which is gearing up for a winter season “reopening” to mass travel. The US health agency has told Americans the chance of catching the virus is high in Barbados and they should avoid visiting the country.
The CDC said in a notice issued Monday: “Because of the current situation in Barbados, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”
Health authorities blame the sharp rise in infections, illnesses and deaths on the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 among the mostly unvaccinated.
Despite a renewed drive to vaccinate 50,000 Barbadians in five weeks, infection rates of around 200 new cases a day have left almost 1,000 people under isolation or in treatment in coronavirus facilities across the island.
The alert has generated much press coverage in the United States, was reported in national paper USA Today and was also carried internationally by the Associated Press and Reuters news agencies.
The advisory also comes as the country is in the middle of hosting the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres who is here for the historic but mostly virtual hosting of the United Nation’s Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Barbados has joined Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica , Aruba, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Dominica and the French Caribbean territories of Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Saint Martin, and Saint Barthélemy which have all been placed on the CDC Red High Alert list for very high COVID-19 infections and travel warning.
The action by the CDC also comes as debate rages over the instituting of a vaccine mandate for COVID-19, with several high-profile private sector officials urging Government to introduce mandatory vaccines as a matter of urgency.
But on Sunday Prime Minister Mottley insisted mandatory vaccinations would undermine Barbados’ social capital and Government would continue its efforts to persuade Barbadians to voluntarily come forward to take the jab.
To date almost, 139,000 people have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine, while 107 470 people in the population are fully vaccinated. There has been a total of 81 deaths since the first confirmed infection in March last year. Some 195 new cases of the viral illness were confirmed on Sunday.
Two weeks after setting a target of 10,000 vaccinations per week, Government has fallen short with figures for last week showing that just under 6,000 people received their first doses. The first week saw only 6,500 jabs delivered.
But the Prime Minister argued that without the vaccine drive, the situation would have been much worse. She added while the COVID-19 dashboard shows the vaccination rate hovering around 39 per cent of the overall population, the vaccination rate is well over half the proportion of those currently eligible for the jab.
“If you take toddlers to 12-year-olds out of the equation, we are already at about 57/58 per cent of the persons who are eligible to take the vaccine taking it,” she declared.