Health official calls for tightening of Covid-19 protocols

Former Chief Health Inspector Lionel Michael (file photo)
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By Makeida Antonio

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A public health official has expressed concern over adherence to the country’s Covid-19 protocols by residents, amid a rise in the number of cases.

Chief Environmental Health Officer for the British Virgin Islands and Antigua and Barbuda’s former Chief Health Inspector Lionel Michael said he observed what he believes is “weak adherence” to implemented measures during a recent visit to the country.

“What I see in bars and a lot of business places, it wasn’t good. I went to check them out just for public health purposes.”

“The general adherence to the measures in Antigua and Barbuda needs to be tightened up, the population needs to be more serious [in] adhering to the measures because I went to a lot of places while I was there and a lot of measures are not adhered to,” Michael told the Observer AM radio show yesterday.

He urged the public to practice vigilance when interacting with others in social situations. This advice comes as restaurants, bars and gyms are closed until September 10 when the measure will be revisited by Cabinet.

Michael elaborated on a few examples of existing protocols that he believes need much improvement.

“The social distancing [should be] six feet apart; the way they wear their masks; the markers on the floor that show people six feet apart, a lot of business places don’t have them, they only have them at one section in a little part of the business place; hand hygiene in some places is difficult to carry out, sometimes water is not there – it’s trickling on your hands, and so on; in some places hand sanitiser is not present,” he said.

While the health official noted that some business establishments are following Covid-19 protocols, he remained concerned about the uniformity of measures put in place to control the spread of the virus.

“There are other places where these things are there and other places where you have water and sanitiser, but it is not universal, it is not throughout the whole country; people are lapsing,” he said.

When asked about his opinion on establishments requiring proof of vaccination, Michael stated that it is a good suggestion as bars are high risk areas.

“The bar owners, the bar managers, the bar supervisors, the bar patrons, the bartenders and so on find it extremely difficult to control the situation in bars and therefore bars generally fall under strict control in terms of when you have increased Covid cases.

“A bar is a place that presents special challenges for socialisation, for interaction and hence the level of spreading Covid and the ease in which Covid-19 can be spread,” he explained.

Michael recommended that there be a special public health task force implemented by the Ministry of Health to routinely inspect business places for adherence to Covid-19 protocols.

“What they need is a public health force to monitor these measures in the business places, to set up a monitoring team to make sure, first of all, they have the infrastructure in place and, secondly, the business people make sure that people coming into their establishment use and practice their measures,” he added.

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