St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment, Hon. Luke Browne, in an address to the nation on Friday, March 27th, 2020, reiterated that his Ministry is taking very seriously the preparation for dealing with possible challenges associated with COVID-19. “We pay tribute to all the dedicated and hardworking professionals who have been working relentlessly on the COVID-19 national response… They are helping to protect our nation”.
With regards to ICU beds and ventilators, the Ministry of Health has increased the number of ICU beds to 43 to treat COVID-19 cases and “at least 26 ventilators.” “This is mission critical”, Minister Browne stated, in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. He reminded the public that “there is neither vaccine nor specific anti-viral treatment for COIVD-19” however the Government “has purchased the Cuban drug Interferon which has been used to good effect in the treatment of COVID-19 cases in China and elsewhere.”
Up to the time of his address, 31 cases were tested and “there is still just the 1 confirmed case. All the other results were negative including the result for the patient who was recently transported to the Kingstown Flu Clinic in an isolation chamber by individuals wearing protective gear. There was also a repeat test for the patient who originally tested positive. I am happy to state that the repeat test was also negative. All but one of the tests were done at the Caribbean Public Health Agency and the other was performed in Barbados”.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines will soon have the capacity to test for COVID-19 as the equipment for testing has been procured and should arrive by April 3rd subject to delivery arrangements, Minster Browne said. He further disclosed that the target date for testing is April 6th and that training has been lined up for lab personnel.
The Minister of Health disclosed that the costs associated with equipment sourcing was roughly $300 000. “The work on the Isolation Centre is progressing well”, Minister Browne said and should be completed by mid-April. He noted also, that the property purchase, construction, equipment and supplies amounted to a total cost of $3.8 million with the NIS contributing $750, 000.00.
Last Thursday night, a group of Cuban health professionals arrived at the AIA. The Cuban Medical Brigade as they are called, consists of 4 Doctors and 12 Nurses, all of whom have background in the control and management of infectious diseases and will work at our Isolation Centre. They would also assist with additional and ongoing training for local staff. The Brigade is expected to be here for 3 months in the first instance subject to renewal. In his address to the nation last Friday evening, Minister Browne noted that it was not necessary for the Cubans to be in quarantine since they spent 14 days in quarantine in Cuba before embarking on the journey to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
According to Minister Browne, travelers from all countries are subject to screening. “Forty additional Nurses and/or interns are being hired. Many of them have already been trained and deployed to strengthen screening and surveillance at ports of entry. Minister Browne explained that the screening may entail an interview, body temperature checks, examination for signs and symptoms and other measures.
The Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment urged persons experiencing flu like symptoms to stay at home and report any concern/s to the health authority. “If you’re supposed to be in quarantine, stay in quarantine”, Minister Browne said. He reminded the public of the toll free COVID-19 hotline (534 4325) where health professionals will inform callers on the best action to take. In light of this, Minister Browne commended the hotline operators, communications personnel, doctors and nurses who work behind the scenes and on the front line, respectively, for their hard work, “the nation owes you a debt of gratitude”.