Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s intention to reopen sectors of the economy to fully vaccinated patrons in a “safe zone” is a logical approach to trying to mitigate the economic fallout from the pandemic according to epidemiologist and public health diplomat, Dr Farley Gleghorn.
However, he said safety needs to extend beyond vaccination and must include other methods within the policy.
Dr Cleghorn explained that while vaccines are exceptional at helping prevent severe illness, death, and even the likelihood of transmission there have been instances where there were outbreaks globally among vaccinated segments of the population.
This is why he said the already established public health protocols should be maintained.
He also added that information should be collected for the purpose of contact tracing and follow-ups at establishments and events to follow up with patrons.
He said this information could even be used to monitor its effect on the local epidemiology, especially at the start of the rollout.
“With your contact tracing information, you call back a bunch of people and test them. You can do this in a kind of designed way—random, non-random, targeted, whatever—and you say that really didn’t add to our transmission at all,” he said.
Last week, Dr Rowley said if projections continue with low COVID-19 numbers and consistent vaccinations, the Government aims to reopen bars, gyms, cinemas, casinos and allow in-house dining in four weeks. Rowley said certain aspects of the businesses could become safe zones where vaccinated people can participate.
Elaborating at Monday’s Ministry of Health COVID-19 update, the ministry’s epidemiology division’s technical director Dr Avery Hinds explained that a safe zone will try to facilitate the movement of people with a lower risk of being infected or infectious for leisure-type activities.
“It is like you are creating an artificial pocket of herd immunity by having all the people in a particular space vaccinated while they interact. So theoretically, it is one of the approaches that can reduce risk but will not, clearly, eliminate the risk altogether. It is an approach that can reduce risk by having a lower risk cohort or group of individuals interacting in these settings. So from an epidemiologic perspective, yes, it is an idea that is supported and the more people that are vaccinated, the better the idea will work,” Hinds said.