Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Kenneth George is urging Barbadians not to drop their guard at this time because COVID-19 and a strain of flu – identified as H3N2 – were both circulating among the population.
George said the positivity rate and the R-effective indicated COVID-19 was still very much in the community, but those coming forward to be tested have declined. As a result, the number of people with the viral illness “may not be a true reflection of what it really is”.
He made the disclosure in a recorded statement on Monday.
George said hospitalisation remained low and those patients were exhibiting minor forms of the illness. There has been a single COVID-19 death in the past seven days.
“I am not here to dampen your Christmas in any way, but we are here to let you know there are still some things that you can do prevent sickness and illness,” he said.
“We are indeed facing a double whammy, because we have COVID circulating and we have flu circulating. The flu virus has been typed. It is H3N2 that has been circulating and that has also increased steeply within the last two months. We continue to monitor both for flu and for COVID.”
There have been no hospitalisations or deaths associated with the flu virus, but the CMO said they would report to the public if there were any changes.
George said those with chronic diseases, the overweight and elderly remain vulnerable and he asked them to go the extra mile.
Ronald Chapman. (GP)
Deputy chief environmental officer and former head of the COVID Monitoring Unit, Ronald Chapman, reinforced the public health measures of mask wearing, handwashing or the use of sanitisers and physical distancing.
“However, we recognise there has been a relaxation in the directives and because of that relaxation we expect persons to take responsibility for themselves. So we are asking persons – as we continue to work through the issues of COVID – if you are feeling unwell, if you are feeling ill, it is wise to put on a mask.
“You may not have COVID, you may be suffering with the flu or may be just a common cold but all respiratory diseases can be fought with the use of the mask.”
Chapman also asked members of the population to manage their risk.
“The Ministry of Health has no intention at this present time to return to the heavy-handed approach that we had during COVID. You can see that with the relaxation of the protocols and the dissolution of the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit. We are at a place where we believe persons can act responsibly; that persons can take stock of their own risk, they can look and see how they can protect themselves as opposed to persons police every moment that they make.” (SAT)