By Julia Rawlings-Bentham
With almost 60 per cent of Barbados’ population vaccinated against COVID-19, Government is moving towards the establishment of safe zones as it continues to battle the virus that has claimed 98 lives to date.
The creation of these zones will see health care workers being targetted in the first instance, followed by frontline workers, along with those in the tourism and education sectors.
Overtime, persons in the restaurant and entertainment sectors and places of worship will be included in the creation of safe zones.
This plan of action was revealed on Monday by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley during a virtual address to the nation from Ilaro Court, as she disclosed that a total of 142, 543 Barbadians were now vaccinated against COVID-19.
Noting that Government was maintaining its position against mandating vaccines, the Prime Minister said Government still had a duty to create a “safe place and a safe zone” for those who were vaccinated and did not wish to be infected by the virus.
The Prime Minister explained that officials were satisfied that they needed to start the process of creating safe zones where persons were either vaccinated or frequently tested.
“At the end of the day, what matters is that you are safe and not in a position to put each other at risk,” Ms. Mottley stated.
Such a process the Prime Minister said would see unvaccinated persons being tested weekly at Government’s expense, while vaccinated persons would be tested, but less frequently.
“The truth is that persons who are vaccinated will have a less frequent regime…. Persons who are vaccinated are less likely to catch it [COVID-19], and if they catch it, they are less likely to be contagious because it is not going to stay with them…,” Ms. Mottley said.
Ms. Mottley said the process of establishing safe zones would be led by the Ministry of Health and Wellness and done “in a series of bite sized chunks” as it continued to manage the overall situation in the country.
She added that in the first instance, Government would be seeking to protect the most vulnerable in society such as the elderly, those in nursing homes, the Geriatric Hospital, hospitals and those dependent on caregivers.
Ms. Mottley said the guidance notes which would be issued by the Ministry of Health and Wellness later this week would insist on testing for persons based on risk.
In health care institutions, high risk areas would include intensive care units, whether medical intensive care or surgical intensive care; the Accident and Emergency Department; the 24-hour urgent care at polyclinics, isolation facilities; swabbing centres; nursing homes and outpatient clinics.
“The Ministry of Health [and Wellness] has indicated that those are the high risk areas, and… it is anticipated that unvaccinated persons…in these high risk areas will have to be tested at least once a week, in order to ensure that we are taking care of those we have to take care of,” she outlined.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister urged persons to continue the discussions and dialogue surrounding the vaccine hesitancy, particularly as there were still people who were nervous about receiving the jab.