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Doc: Keep your distance!

BARBADIANS HAVE DROPPED their guard amid the COVID-19 pandemic and need to space out more, especially at places of entertainment.

So says the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s Director of Medical Services (Ag.) Dr. Clyde Cave, who is concerned that the lack of proper mask-wearing and bunching of people at events could lead to catastrophic consequences for the country.

In an interview with the DAILY NATION yesterday, Cave said though it was mostly young Barbadians out partying or socialising and either not wearing masks the correct way or practising physical distancing, his concern was the elderly at home, who could be infected by relatives carrying the virus.

He said that unless something changed immediately, Barbados could face a second spike of the coronavirus should just a few infections occur in the community.

Reasons for success

“We seem to be taking this period now very nonchalantly as though the problem has been resolved with the virus. The reason we were successful in the first place was that we did things right in terms of wearing the masks and staying away from crowds. We seem to have gotten to a place now where we will do the mask but not wear them properly all the time and having them beneath the nose or mouth, and feel that’s enough.”

Added to that, he said Barbadians were not doing themselves any favours in relation to physical distancing.

“The most important thing in staying safe is personal distancing and the avoidance of crowding,” the veteran physician said. “In the hospital (QEH), in particular, we are having difficulty convincing people to use tents outside and restrict their visiting and not sitting down next to each other. We tried to restrict entry to the hospital and everyone crowded outside by the door. We stopped them from coming into the clinic waiting room, and they all crowded around the door. We limited them coming into the wards, and they all crowd around outside the wards. That’s not effective.”

He said there remained a probability that people could be walking around asymptomatic with COVID-19 and be infectious.

“Now, when we have the chance, with no community spread still, is the time to get it right. Should there be more virus circulating in the country with the way we are doing now, it is going to be, as we have seen in other countries, not where we would want to be.”

Cave said he understood it would be difficult for some to be out socially and eat and drink for obvious reasons, but that was where proper physical distancing could help Barbadians in the long run.

“It’s really tricky to deal with socially,” he admitted. “Wearing a mask for everything is not comfortable or possible. But if you go out for a drink, you should try to go somewhere open-aired, where you can be spaced out. We know that indoors, like

at a bar, is a higher risk where we have people talking, shouting and singing. That’s why meetings, and church services and choirs, are particularly high-risk. A crowded bar indoors is one of the worst places you could attempt to not wear a mask.”

He said though wearing a mask was not fool-proof, neither was being three feet from someone talking or singing. “Three feet is a minimum, but six feet would be better,” the doctor suggested. “I don’t think we are being particularly successful with the physical distancing at this time.”

Cave said he understood the general desire of Barbadians to want to go back to a better time where they could socialise and have fun, but that could lead to dire consequences.

“A lot of the young people, even if they pick up COVID, they might be sick and not die, but then you could bring it home and older people with vulnerabilities, those are one the ones who get sick and our death rate could go up.”


This article reprinted from the Nation Newspaper, August 25th, 2020.

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