Medical NGO wants tourists from high, medium risk countries quarantined for at least a Fortnight

The Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) applauds the Government of Barbados on its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic so far… This is a testament to the many officials dedicated to keeping our citizens healthy and safe, as well as to the diligence of the people themselves.

As we now shift gears to focus on resuscitating the economy, we must remain cognizant that the battle is not yet over, and that nothing could be more devastating than a second wave of COVID-19 infections. Indeed, we have already recorded several imported cases since re-opening our borders, and we must exercise great caution to prevent community spread.

Tourism is our main income earner, but we must be certain that increasing air travel is truly profitable and has a cost-benefit in our favor and that it does not jeopardize the health of our people in the long term. With the excellent reputation Barbados has built over the years as a high-quality destination, we must now also market our island as a “safe destination” with robust COVID-19 preventative measures.

We therefore, as medical practitioners recommend the following:

– Quarantining of persons tested on arrival: We believe that all persons arriving from high and medium-risk countries, given the risk of contracting an infection on embarkation, during the flight or on disembarkation, must ideally still be quarantined for fourteen (14) days after arrival with daily monitoring for fever or any COVID-19 symptoms.

We recommend the use of online forms and/or mobile reporting apps for daily reporting of temperatures and symptoms. Travelers must be informed that failure to report daily will be considered a breach of a signed contract given to them on arrival and may result in their mandatory quarantine or deportation.

Testing: As per current practice, PCR is the only modality of COVID-19 testing that should be utilized. Barbados requires a negative PCR test from an accredited source 72 hrs prior to departure. However, we recognize that all untested travelers and those from higher risk countries may still transmit COVID-19 to any other traveler during the course of travel. We therefore believe that additional COVID-19 PCR testing of all persons arriving on flights from high and medium-risk countries should be mandatory and subsidized by the traveler. This testing should be performed on arrival and repeated 7 days later.

Cost of testing and healthcare: To defray the cost of treating persons who become ill while on the island, BAMP suggests that persons intending to come to Barbados should have travel insurance that covers the costs of possible tertiary healthcare for COVID-19. Details of this insurance should be recorded on their electronic ED card prior to departure.

Contact tracing and tracking: We strongly recommend investment in mobile phone-based technologies for GPS-based contact tracing and tracking of visitors from high and medium risk countries. The prototypes of several apps are available and should be adapted for our purposes and implemented as soon as possible.

Relaxing limits on public gatherings: With the influx of travelers, several of whom have already tested positive for COVID-19, we believe it is premature to relax restrictions on public gatherings, as has been announced. We recommend limiting gatherings to no more than 250 persons, with strict enforcement of the well-known safety measures (social distancing, provisions for hygiene, and masks).

Given the logistical and financial burden of implementing public health measures with large numbers of travelers and tourists, we suggest Government explore public-private partnerships with satellite laboratories, IT specialists, healthcare providers, and the hospitality industry. Special provisions should also be made for aircraft crews, in partnership with their respective employers.

BAMP remains open for ongoing discussion with the government, private sector and all stakeholders involved in the development of protocols to preserve and protect the health and safety of the Barbadian public.

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