The Barbados Ministry of Health is ending COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements for social and sporting activity, including the Crop Over Festival.
This was among the changes announced by Minister of Health Ian Gooding-Edghill ahead of the latest public health directive which will go into effect on Sunday.
The mask mandate remains in place for indoor activities, but is still optional for outdoors, the distance of three feet continues as does sanitisation at all venues.
The travel protocols are also under review and there could be a further relaxing in that sector.
“The Emergency Operations Committee met last Monday and reviewed the current directive and made the following recommendations for a new directive which will come into effect tomorrow. These changes reflect the prevailing climate in country and an overall reduction in the case burden,” Gooding-Edghill said.
“These changes have been implemented after careful consideration and evaluation of the public health risks, both locally and internationally, and the available measures needed to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.”
The major changes include:
As from tomorrow, there will be no testing or vaccine mandates to take part in community, social and sporting events including Emancipation and Crop Over, pleasure craft, private boats, party cruises, night clubs, karaoke, graduations and prize giving ceremonies to mention a few. Service providers, staff and performers will no longer be required to be tested or produce evidence that they are fully vaccinated.
Gatherings of 250 peoples or more will require permission from the COVID Monitoring Unit and the National Cultural Foundation.
The restrictions on attendance and the length of service at funeral services, wedding ceremonies, wedding receptions and religious services will be removed.
The mask mandates for indoor events and physical distancing of three feet or more are still in effect. For out-door activities, mask wearing remains optional.
Mandatory hand sanitisation is required for all public and private health care institutions, all educational based facilities (nursery through tertiary), all ports of entry (air and sea) and at Dodds Prison.
We will allow no more than one person to visit a patient in a nursing home, senior citizens’ home, geriatric hospital or a district hospital.
Gooding-Edghill said the other indicators were trending downward.
The positivity rate is at 18 per cent, down from a high 32 per cent and the R effective is at 0.89, down from a high of 1.2 six weeks ago. The death rate has now slowed, even with the loss of 473 lives.
There are 28 people at the Harrison Point isolation facility and numbers are also trending downward in home isolation, where there are less than 1 000 people.
“Despite our pleasing positive results, I must point out that we cannot afford to drop our standards and behaviours especially at a time when Barbadians are enjoying the previously announced relaxation of Covid-19 measures,” the Minister said.
“These measures, tough as they sometimes were and the willingness of Barbadians to support them, were absolutely critical to bringing us to these happier circumstances. To do otherwise, with Covid-19 still changing, will leave the nation open and vulnerable to possibility of an upsurge.”
He also urged Barbadians who are yet to do so to get vaccinated “rather than allow them to eventually expire and go to waste”.
Meanwhile, there could be more changes at the ports of entry. The last protocols ended mandatory quarantine and a positive COVID-19 test for those who are vaccinated. Gooding-Edghill said these were undergoing further review and would be communicated “after consultation with our stakeholders”.
The Minister said there would be continued risk of new variants and the Ministry of Health would provide “appropriate surveillance for new and emerging variants” working closely with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO). (PR/SAT)