Coronavirus Back Story – Why Barbados is NOT Banning Travel from Affected Areas
There was an article in your newspaper of 3 .February 2020 entitled: “Barbados not rushing to ban travellers from China.” The same message was also aired on radio. Mention was made about the statistical likelihood of an outbreak locally being under two percent. There was even mention of the fact that since 1967 there was no real impact on Barbados of the outbreak of contagious diseases. According to the aired news the local authorities were following the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. As the holder of a doctorate in microbiology and some one who has done post doctoral studies in the discipline, I have a few questions, which I want answered in the public interest.
According to the Center for Disease control and Prevention (CDC). the virus has an incubation period of two weeks. Infected person maybe asymptomatic during the two-week period. It was for this reason the USA instituted a ban on persons who had been exposed for less than two weeks entering its domain. The reason given for doing so was the logistics involved in screening for potential carriers. Let me explain.
Let us assume there is an asymptomatic carrier who has entered the Barbadian domain and is interacting with the locals. After realizing that there is an active carrier in Barbados, it is incumbent on the authorities to track down and screen all persons who have interacted with the carrier. If the carrier has interacted with one hundred persons, each person has to be screened. This only allows for interaction of the carrier with one hundred persons. Allowance also has to be made for the interaction of each member of the one-hundred with other people. As can be envisaged, the number of persons required to screen, dramatically increases to such an extent, that the screening process breaks down. It is for this reason that countries have introduced a ban on persons who come from infected areas. In the case illustrated above where would Barbados get the required trained persons to actively carry out screening?
There has been mention of the fact that Barbados is following the WHO guidelines. Is this the same WHO that was shown to be totally incompetent its handling of Ebola? What about the Haitian cholera outbreak? The latter was under the aegis of the United Nation of which WHO is a part. The best scientists in the field do not work for WHO; they are found in research institutions. The WHO like all other United Nations bodies are constrained by political realities of member states who push political objectives ahead of what the correct scientific should be. As far as I can make out, there seems to be a pecuniary method behind Barbados’s stance on this matter: namely an effort not to affect the tourist industry.
Robert D. Lucas, PH.D.