The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has slapped Barbados with a “level 4 – Avoid travel” alert to its residents, the very best warning issued by the US government within the pandemic.
In a move likely triggered by a surge in coronavirus infections that has overwhelmed the general public health system, the CDC warning comes at the same time as Barbados ramps up its vaccination programme.
The advisory could deliver a serious blow to the island’s tourism industry which is gearing up for a winter season “reopening” to mass travel. The US health agency has told Americans the possibility of catching the virus is high in Barbados they usually should avoid visiting the country.
The CDC said in a notice issued Monday: “Due to current situation in Barbados, even fully vaccinated travellers could also be in danger for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”
Health authorities blame the sharp rise in infections, illnesses and deaths on the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 among the many mostly unvaccinated.
Despite a renewed drive to vaccinate 50,000 Barbadians in five weeks, infection rates of around 200 latest cases a day have left almost 1,000 people under isolation or in treatment in coronavirus facilities across the island.
The alert has generated much press coverage in the US, was reported in national paper USA Today and was also carried internationally by the Associated Press and Reuters news agencies.
The advisory also comes because the country is in the course of hosting the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres who’s here for the historic but mostly virtual hosting of the United Nation’s Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Barbados has joined Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica , Aruba, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Dominica and the French Caribbean territories of Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Saint Martin, and Saint Barthélemy which have all been placed on the CDC Red High Alert list for very high COVID-19 infections and travel warning.
The motion by the CDC also comes as debate rages over the instituting of a vaccine mandate for COVID-19, with several high-profile private sector officials urging Government to introduce mandatory vaccines as a matter of urgency.
But on Sunday Prime Minister Mottley insisted mandatory vaccinations would undermine Barbados’ social capital and Government would proceed its efforts to steer Barbadians to voluntarily come forward to take the jab.
To this point almost, 139,000 people have had at the least one COVID-19 vaccine, while 107 470 people within the population are fully vaccinated. There was a complete of 81 deaths because the first confirmed infection in March last yr. Some 195 latest cases of the viral illness were confirmed on Sunday.
Two weeks after setting a goal of 10,000 vaccinations per week, Government has fallen short with figures for last week showing that just below 6,000 people received their first doses. The primary week saw only 6,500 jabs delivered.
However the Prime Minister argued that without the vaccine drive, the situation would have been much worse. She added while the COVID-19 dashboard shows the vaccination rate hovering around 39 per cent of the general population, the vaccination rate is well over half the proportion of those currently eligible for the jab.
“When you take toddlers to 12-year-olds out of the equation, we’re already at about 57/58 per cent of the individuals who’re eligible to take the vaccine taking it,” she declared. (IMC1)