UWI Students commence “Operation Seek and Save” in Barbados

Having been trained and readied with adequate personal protective equipment, approximately 360 students of The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus began visiting Barbadian communities on February 3 as part of an island-wide COVID-19 data-gathering exercise.

The students are supporting an ambitious national survey to collect health-related data throughout Barbados in one of the Government’s latest initiatives to halt the spread of COVID-19. The field operation has also recruited members of the Barbados Defense Force (BDF), public transport providers and other state representatives to provide critical logistical support.

The UWI students will spend a total of 11 days on the exercise themed “Operation Seek and Save”, while observing the strictest protocols to protect themselves and respondents. They have been instructed not to enter homes; to conduct the survey from the recommended six feet distance; and they have been provided with field kits that include hand sanitizers, face masks and face shields. Part of their training involved test runs on the smart devices they will use for the data entry related to both COVID-19 and Dengue Fever. This data will be used by Government to formulate public health intervention strategies as a matter of urgency.

Programme Coordinator of Cave Hill’s MSc in Management, Dr Dion Greenidge who is marshalling the data-gathering for Operation Seek and Save stated, “Our students have been trained and completed what we call CITI training (research ethics and compliance), which emphasizes the ethical aspect of this exercise in terms of how to handle particular kinds of data, as confidentiality is very important. The students have signed confidentiality clauses to say that they will protect any information they collect. We also stress in the field that persons have the right not to answer. While we would prefer their cooperation, responses are not mandatory.”

Dr Greenidge also noted that the rollout went off without any major glitches and that each student volunteer group is being accompanied by at least one member of the BDF, lending a reassuring presence. “All the logistics are working as planned and that’s testimony to the hard work of individuals. We have a team of MSc Business Analytics students which has been working around the clock from February 1 on the logistics. Those students actually built the system themselves over five days or so, then tested it.”

The entire project is coordinated by UWI staffer, Lieutenant Colonel Junior Brown, with oversight from Deputy Campus Principal, Professor Winston Moore, and assistance from a team of University employees. The project has generated a high level of interest among students with over 900 indicating willingness to participate; more than 400 were selected for training.

This initiative demonstrates the ongoing work of The UWI, as an activist University committed to the fight against COVID-19. Through science, medicine, engineering and volunteerism, the regional academy’s staff and students are contributing resources and expertise towards sustainable solutions for the Caribbean.

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