KINGSTOWN, – Minister of Health St. Claire Prince have again reiterated that “public health measures must be observed if we are to slow the spread of Covid-19.”
He made those comments in light of the recent uptake in the number of positive local cases, which has forced the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to re-evaluate the public health safety measures, especially the holding of large crowd gatherings.
To this end, the Ministry of Health, Wellness, and the Environment have identified a number of key elements to a successful response within the Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Framework.
Early detection protocols have been adjusted for passengers arriving via air and sea ports, with a move to full Tourism Approved quarantine. All passengers arriving from high risk countries must spend 14 days at such a facility, and can only be deem to be Covid-19 negative with a negative PCR test at the end of the 14-day quarantine period.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines have process about 40,000 PCR samples, with rapid antibody testing, rapid antigen testing, and PCR testing offered at the laboratory facilities.
A number of private laboratories have already indicated their willingness to offer testing for clearance and exit screening. Already there is one Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines approved private laboratory with the requisite capacity to do PCR testing for clearance and exit screening.
The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines continues to source critically needed equipment to improve overall capacity management of the virus. Recently a highly throughput extraction equipment instrument called a Qiacube HT (Kia-Cube-Ht), was purchased, and will significantly improve sample processing, clearance of backlogged tests, and the issuing of results.
Extraction is the most labour intensive and time-consuming part of the PCR process, and requires a biological safety cabinet, along with trained, technical personnel.
The Qiacube HT instrument will reduce the extraction process by 2½ hours, significantly increasing the extraction process, and the waiting time for results by the members of the public.
To further enhance human capacity, a team of Vincentian biomedical engineers, IT professionals, and laboratory technologists are remotely engaged with a specialist Guatemalan team, undergoing the requisite training and the subsequent installation of the Qiacube HT instrument.
In containing the virus, the island’s capacity have always been geared towards having adequate supplies of PPE suits for the public health teams on the ground, in the flu clinics, and wider health services.
The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have set up nine flu clinics; one in every district, and advises persons with flu-like symptoms “to visit the one closet to you.”
These flu clinics offer screening with rapid antigen tests, which allows for immediate diagnosis of Covid-19 in persons with flu-like symptoms.
Storage capacity have been expanded, the Health Disaster Coordinator and her team continues the procurement process, despite facing numerous challenges.
The methodology employed by the psychosocial team is to trace, test, isolate, and provide psychosocial support.
However, as pointed out by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Health Minister, “Those who fail to comply with our quarantine and isolation requirements can be charged EC$2,000.00 per day under our Amended Public Health Act.”
With no cure currently available for the Coronavirus which has killed millions the world over, along with the crippling of the world’s economy, Covid-19 positive patients that require hospitalization, would be admitted at the Argyle Isolation Facility. Those who require more high demand care would be house at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, under the supervision of Dr. Woods and his team of health care professionals.
“Notwithstanding given the recent uptake in the number of Covid-19 positive cases in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the government decided to increase the areas to isolate, care, and treat for Covid-19 positive persons who do not require hospitalisation, and cannot properly undertake self-isolation in their own homes. To this end the government has leased a self-contained twenty-five room facility for six months in the first instance,” stated Minister of Health St. Claire Prince.
He noted that “any sustained increased in the number of Covid-19 cases in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, may necessitate the need for additional accommodation. Nevertheless, at this phase, home quarantine and isolation are recommended for those who can safely and properly quarantine and isolate themselves at home.”
The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have commenced the required risk communication, including the training of healthcare workers, among other target groups.
“Risk communication has proven to be one of the most important pillars during this pandemic,” Minister Prince pointed out. “We always strive to provide timely and accurate information, with our communication team utilizing all available resources within both our public and private sectors.”
On a consistent daily basis, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache and the rest of the technical team, has been keeping the public informed. Minister Prince noted that: “They have been making swift but considered decisions to ensure as much as possible, that there is an environment that is conducive to the maintenance of the health and wellbeing of as many persons as possible, even as we adapt to the ever changing situation.”
The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, through the Technical Working Group specially established to deal with the Covid-19 situation, “are currently negotiating with two vaccine manufactures, while exploring several promising advancement for the provision of vaccines through the Covax and African medical platforms, and also the Indian Government.”
By Robertson S. Henry