Minister of Health St Clair Prince has again reiterated that public health measures must be observed if St Vincent and the Grenadines is to slow the spread of COVID-19.
He made this comment 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.
The Ministry of Health, Wellness, and the Environment has 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 deemed to be COVID-19 negative with a negative PCR test at the end of the 14-day quarantine period.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has processed 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 approved private laboratory with the requisite capacity to do PCR testing for clearance and exit screening.
It was noted that 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.
It was also highlighted that 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 Minister said the island’s capacity has 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 has set up nine flu clinics; one in every district, and advises persons with flu-like symptoms to visit the one closet to them.
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 has been expanded, while 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 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 hospitalisation, would be admitted at the Argyle Isolation Facility.
Those who require more high demand care would be housed at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.
“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 the Minister of Health.
He noted that any sustained increase 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.
It was noted the government through the Technical Working Group established to deal with the COVID-19 situation is currently negotiating with two vaccine manufacturers, while exploring several promising advancements for the provision of vac