Barbuda takes the lead in COVID-19 fight

3D illustration of Coronavirus, virus which causes SARS and MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
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By Elesha George

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Authorities on the sister island are leading the way in the fight against the coronavirus by implementing the most stringent measures seen in the twin island state to date.

“Unity is strength. We might be small in numbers but we are ready to face COVID-19,” said Barbuda’s acting matron, Prisca John.

For the past two weeks, the Coast Guard has been patrolling sea borders, asking yachts and boats to identify themselves and to present clearance passes from mainland Antigua.

In its latest pronouncement, the Barbuda Council ordered the closure of borders to all non-essential services.

Barbuda has also issued a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for anyone coming from outside of Antigua and Barbuda, and has asked supermarkets and small shops to restrict service to no more than 10 customers at a time.

Resident doctor, Jeremy Deazle, said because the population is so small, more aggressive measures are being applied, adding that, “anyone that comes from overseas, in spite of where you come from, it could be a high risk zone, it could be a low risk zone”.

With just two doctors and four nurses to attend to a population of just over 1,000 people, the officials’ plan is expected to manage the human resource capacity while minimising the risk of residents contracting COVID-19.

Patients with chronic illnesses like hypertension, high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes will receive care at a special clinic, which is expected to become operational from March 30.

Dr Deazle explained that primary care would essentially be divided into two groups. Those deemed high risk will be seen at a location in Codrington.

“These are mostly elderly persons who are on chronic medication … at the hospital we are going to continue seeing acute cases, persons coming with lacerations, pain injuries and stuff like that,” he explained.

He added that people arriving at the Hanna Thomas hospital with signs of respiratory failure will be provided with face masks and immediately isolated for later assessment and diagnosis.

An area has also been designated in the village where medication and prescription refill services will be made available for elderly patients. The medication will be delivered to their homes so as to prevent the spread of the virus to these high-risk patients.

A domestic task force is already in place. By next week, a number of ‘no loitering’ areas will be outlined and a hotline will be created for persons exhibiting signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

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