Sunday 7 June, 2020

Coronavirus: Low risk for St Vincent and the Grenadines

No Vincentians were put at risk when a cruise ship with ill passengers was allowed to dock in Kingstown on Friday 31, January 2020.  

Minister of Health Robert Luke Browne gave this assurance during a media conference today, Monday 3 February 2020, as he defended the government’s decision to allow the AIDA Perla to berth in St Vincent and the Grenadines.  

The vessel was turned away from Dominica and St Lucia over the weekend due to fears of the Coronavirus.  

Minister Browne says all necessary protocols were followed before the cruise ship docked, noting an increase in surveillance at the nation’s ports of entry such as the Argyle International Airport and the Kingstown port.  

“There is a lot of discussion in the media about a boat which was allowed to enter St Vincent (a cruise ship) which subsequently went to St Lucia and was denied entry because there were sick persons on board. 

A cruise ship with over 3000 passengers onboard bound to have sick persons on board at any point in time, we did all the necessary screening and the decision to allow it to dock was consistent with the guidance given by public health agencies.  

Not because somebody is sick means automatically the vessel should not come here.  

We did our public health assessments before the vessel came and proved that it was safe for it to be able to come to St Vincent and the Grenadines,” said the Health Minister.  

A quarantine isolation centre has been activated on the island in the event someone does enter the country with the Coronavirus.  

However, the Health Minister opted not to disclose the location of the quarantine area, as he says the Ministry is involved in sensitisation activities in the community before it is made public.  

“It might take our focus off the fact that what we are dealing with is a low-risk scenario for St Vincent and the Grenadines, so it is very unlikely we are going to have to use the isolation centre but if we need to we would make all preparation to be able to use it.  

Perhaps if we were to talk about it too openly then that might defeat the purpose of isolation and cause a certain stigma to be associated with the facility,” said Minister Browne.  

It was noted that medical personnel was provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which includes the N95 mask while two portable isolation units and capsules are available to be set up on the spot if the need arises.  

Meanwhile, Medical Officer of Health Dr Roger Duncan says the Health Ministry has broadened its National Surveillance Committee to include all counterparts involved in surveillance, particularly immigration, customs and the hotel and tourism industry.  

“Staff at the airport include public health trained nurses and public health officers who are able to conduct secondary screening of passengers.  

So, if anyone was to arrive with a suspected communicable disease, we have staff to conduct screening so they could direct patients where to go. 

Of course, we have no cases and the risk is extremely low for us,” said Dr Duncan.  


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