Written by 5:22 am Travel

Health agency backs travel restriction ease but warns of risks ahead

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has given qualified support for Barbados’ decision to ease travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers, describing it as a “good measure” while warning that the benefit in restriction for inbound travellers will include risks.

In the course of the weekly press conference on Wednesday, PAHO Director of Health Emergencies Dr Ciro Ugarte said it was essential to notice that vaccinated individuals were “higher protected” from the virus.

But, he said: “Perhaps it should not completely eliminate the infection but they’re far more protected than the individuals that are usually not vaccinated and in that regard allowing the individuals who’re vaccinated is a superb measure.

“Nevertheless, the advice from WHO and PAHO shouldn’t be to limit the essential travel of individuals who are usually not vaccinated, since the vaccines are usually not widely available, unfortunately. Also to recognise that if you reduce the restriction for travellers you recognise that you just are accepting a certain level of risk.”

Since Sunday, October 24, fully vaccinated travellers to Barbados with a legitimate negative COVID-19 PCR test aren’t any longer required to take a test on arrival or quarantine.

Dr Ugarte, who was responding to an issue from Barbados TODAY, warned of the necessity to proceed to strengthen surveillance capability, “track” the capability of health services and supply the visitors with easy to know health information.

He also cautioned that even when communities are “highly vaccinated” against the COVID-19 virus, every measure designed to cut back the spread of the virus ought to be still be maintained.

Stressing the necessity for the continued use of masks, physical distancing and sanitisation as the essential measures which have proven to be useful, Dr Ugarte said limiting the number of individuals gathering in some spaces would even be useful.

He said: “We’ve got been including other measures including reduction of mass gathering, particularly in places where people come from several other locations, and in addition to have higher ventilation in closed environments, for instance, in restaurants where many individuals will take off their masks to eat. In those places, it is rather essential to have higher ventilation and if possible use your masks for so long as possible.

“So meanwhile we’ve got this transmission in many of the countries including Barbados, in some locations we saw a rise within the variety of cases that will eventually overwhelm the health services, these measures are those which are very useful.”

In presenting PAHO’s weekly update on the state of the pandemic within the Americas,  Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa da Silva, said while there was an overall decline in COVID-19 positive cases in Latin America and the Caribbean up to now several weeks, Barbados was amongst countries that were still of concern.

“Cases in death are trending downward or remaining stable throughout much of the Caribbean, Barbosa said. “Nevertheless, Barbados continues to report its highest variety of COVID-related infections and death for the reason that start of the pandemic.”

Barbados has been recording over 300 positive cases of COVID-19 infections day by day, and greater than 70 deaths for the month of October alone, the very best variety of deaths in a single month for the reason that start of the pandemic in March 2020.

Last week, Barbosa had also expressed concern in regards to the rising cases in Barbados saying: “St Kitts & Nevis, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines at the moment are reporting their highest numbers of COVID infection and COVID related deaths”.

He warned: “That’s the reason it is vital that the countries proceed to implement public health measures like mask-wearing, social distancing and limiting large gatherings to bring this outbreak under control, especially as many countries are still struggling to expand vaccine coverage.”
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