BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Oct 12, CMC – The Barbados government has announced plans for the establishment of safe zones as the island continues to be impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-9) pandemic that has claimed 98 lives and infected 11,132 others since March last year.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, in a radio and television broadcast on Monday night, said that her administration had decided against further lockdowns and that it was now necessary to protect those who are taking the vaccine.
“The reality is that we are satisfied that we need now at this stage to start the process of the creation of safe zones. And what do we mean by safe zones? That we need to be able to have places where persons are either vaccinated or recently tested,” she said.
“The Ministry of Health will therefore feed us with a series of bitesize chunks; and why? Because we have limited capacity as a small state. I would love to tell you we can do the guidance notes for every area and every sector [at] one time. But if we want to do what we are doing well, while at the same time managing the home isolation and the home quarantine programme, then we are going to do it in ways that are manageable and sustainable.”
Mottley said that the creation of these safe zones will first target care workers in the first instance, followed by frontline workers, along with those in the tourism and education sectors.
The government is hoping that people employed in the restaurant and entertainment sectors, as well as worshippers, will be included in the creation of safe zones.
Mottley said that an estimated 142,543 Barbadians have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 and that while the government was maintaining its position against mandatory vaccinations, the 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.
“At the end of the day, what matters is that you are safe and not in a position to put each other at risk,” Mottley said, adding that such a process would result in unvaccinated people being tested weekly at the 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…,” Mottley said.
Mottley said that in the first instance, the government would be seeking to protect the most vulnerable in society such as the elderly, those in nursing homes, hospitals, and those dependent on caregivers.
She 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.
“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, to ensure that we are taking care of those we have to take care of.”
Prime Minister Mottley has also urged citizens to continue the discussions and dialogue surrounding the vaccine hesitancy, particularly as there were still people who were nervous about receiving the jab.