Jeffrey Bostic, Barbados Health Minister

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Feb. 15, CMC – Minister of Health Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic said Monday that his ministry has been monitoring a number of COVID-19 “hotspots” at elderly care facilities, one of which has had to be turned into an isolation facility because of the large number of residents and staff testing positive for the virus.

This comes when Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced the national lockdown would remain until February 28.

Bostic cited the Geriatric Hospital and two senior citizens’ homes – one in the parish of St Michael and the other on the eastern side of the island – as the facilities which public health officials have focused their attention over the last ten days.

Bostic said the home located on the east of the island posed a challenge for health officials since it was a larger institution where there were 31 positive patients.

Three staff members also tested positive using PCR tests, while another three were diagnosed as positive using antigen rapid tests and were awaiting results from their PCR tests.

“Because of the peculiarity with the situation with several elderly people and given the layout of this particular home, which is bigger than the average home, we’ve decided in collaboration with Dr Corey Forde [Head of Isolation Facilities] that we will designate, and we have done so, this particular home as an isolation facility because the majority of people there are positive,” Minister Bostic said.

“We’ve taken control of the home for this period to help them get out of the situation by utilising resources of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital as well as the Ministry of Health in terms of our public health officers and medical officers.

“We have done a serious job of sanitising the place and rearranging things so that we can do what we are doing at the moment under the safest of conditions and that will be ongoing,” he added.

As for the senior citizens home in St Michael, Bostic said it recorded five positive cases using the antigen rapid test. However, he added that when public health officials tested everyone using the PCR tests, there were two additional positive cases.

Meanwhile, the Health Minister said since the last report of one positive case at the island’s Geriatric Hospital a few weeks ago, there have been five additional cases at that institution – two kitchen staff members and three nurses. They were all asymptomatic.

The silver lining, he explained, was that after conducting several tests all of the patients there had returned negative test results for COVID-19.

“And the remainder of the staff except for 20, who we are awaiting tests for, they are all negative. So that the kitchen which was stood down, sanitised and everything is going to be back in operation from today, and I give my sincerest appreciation to the entire staff at the Geriatric Hospital for staying the course. So, we are comfortable with where we are with the Geriatric Hospital at this time,” Minister Bostic stated.

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PM Mottley: Lockdown Will Remain Until End of Feb.

Barbadians will now remain on lockdown until the end of the month, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced Monday, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths continued to climb.

On the same day that it was announced the island had recorded the first death of a healthcare worker due to the virus, Mottley said that the period of “national pause” which was to end on February 17 would continue until February 28.

“We are going to require a little more time to do what has to be done,” Mottley said.

The Prime Minister said there would be an estimated loss in economic activity of about BDS$150 million (US$75 million) as a result of the extended lockdown.

“This is not an easy decision that we’ve had to make. I met this morning with my finance and economic team and I asked a simple question: Can this country withstand any further extension of the period of pause, or stop as we’re now hearing from our public health officials. The simple answer from the finance and economic team is ‘yes, we will be hurt by any further extension but it will not kill our economy and it will not collapse our economy’,” Mottley said.

“The advisors have indicated to me that it is likely that we will come in at just under BDS$78 million (US$39 million)for this first part of the lockdown, in terms of loss of economic activity. If we go for an additional period of time – just under two weeks – then the most that will be is probably another BDS$70 million-$75 million (US$35 million-$37.5 million). So that we are potentially looking at a loss of about BDS$150 million (US$75 million) in economic activity for the month of February.”

The 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew will remain in place until February 28. The only changes are that the post office will reopen on Thursday to facilitate the cashing of pension cheques; remittance offices will also open; and minimarts, which were not allowed to operate during the lockdown, will be allowed to open Mondays to Fridays, like the supermarkets.

Both minimarts and supermarkets will be closed on weekends.

Prime Minister Mottley’s announcement came after Minister of Health Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic disclosed in a statement that a Queen Elizabeth Hospital nursing assistant had died on Sunday, as a result of COVID-19.

“As the first health care worker to die from COVID-19 in Barbados, her death shook the nursing and health care communities yesterday,” Bostic said on Monday.

“Prior to yesterday, Barbados had so far been spared the loss of any of its health care workers and the cases of COVID among the QEH staff have largely been the result of community spread and not direct patient to caregiver contact.”

The nursing assistant’s death brings to 25 the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 since the first case here in March 2020.

Up to Saturday, Barbados had recorded 2,268 confirmed cases.