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Scientist Lauds Region’s Early Response to COVID-19

Cave Hill Campus, Barbados. 25 April 2020. Deputy Dean of Research at the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre, Dr Madhuvanti Murphy has commended the early intervention of Caribbean countries to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Dr Murphy told an April 22 online discussion forum on the topic ‘UWI on the frontline: Combatting COVID-19 through Data’ that countries in the region had implemented a number of non-pharmaceutical interventions before their first cases were confirmed, and this gave them “a bit of a head start” on containing the respiratory illness.
“So it’s really important to see how those play out. We found that the countries that had taken some intervention will probably not have as many (cases) as the ones that are still experiencing rising cases.
“But again it’s not a competition among countries either. A lot of this has been trial and error; a lot of this has been ‘let’s see what works based on what we’ve seen in other countries’ as it is still quite new.”
She stressed the need for surveillance to inform countries’ decisions going forward.
Referring to an Oxford University study, Dr. Muphy said there is evidence to show that social distancing is effective during pandemics.
“This is just a quote out of a paper that was done by a group out of the University of Oxford, and they’re saying even though it’s limited they still find that the best available evidence supports social distancing measures as a means of reducing transmission and delaying spread, and that staggered and cumulative implementation of these interventions may prove effective,” she said, noting that social distancing is critical at this time as neither a cure nor a vaccine has been found for COVID-19.
But while lauding the effectiveness of social distancing on the community level, Murphy was mindful of the impact that other containment measures such as curfews and lockdowns could on individuals, as according to her, “COVID-19 does not exist in a bubble”.
 “We’ve heard of the evidence where there’s been a rise in domestic violence, for example, with people having to be at home with partners and are suffering at their hands,” she said, adding that COVID-19 could also impact individuals’ mental health during and after the pandemic.
Another concern was for people who suffer from non-communicable diseases: “For those people who are susceptible to COVID-19, if they have a non-communicable disease … in a lot of ways, their routine care is stalled right now because of the focus on COVID-19.”
She also disclosed that in addition to uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension, obesity has emerged as one of the major risk factors among individuals under age 60.

Dr. Murphy said that while officials are now focusing on not overwhelming the health system at the moment due to the pandemic, there are also efforts to ensure that other aspects of the health system will continue to function smoothly post-COVID-19.

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