The greatest fear of the team spearheading the fight against the novel coronavirus on the island may have been realized when on Thursday, members found themselves conducting investigations at the home and workplace of a Saint Lucian tested positively for the virus in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Ministry of Health has since been mum on whether this incident could have triggered a community spread of the virus, a matter that is now the talk on all media platforms in the country.
There are numerous unanswered questions regarding this particular person. Where or from whom did this person get the virus? How long has been the period between infection and positive identification of the virus? And how many persons had that person been in contact with during that time? And the list goes on.
Prior to that information, a media release from the Government of the Virgin Islands spoke of another Saint Lucian with the virus in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. According to the government, “an airline passenger who travelled from the British Virgin Islands to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines through Saint Lucia on Wednesday 15 July was swabbed on arrival in Saint Vincent and subsequently reported as positive for COVID-19. The individual was not tested in the Territory and was therefore not previously suspected or known to us as an active COVID 19 case.”
However the more troubling of the two Saint Lucians is the one who arrived in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on Sunday 19 July. She was tested positive for the virus on entry screening according to the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The woman was tested negative in Saint Lucia prior to her arrival in Saint Vincent where she was tested positive. How is that possible we do not know, however, the Department of Health and Wellness said it has deployed a team to conduct contact tracing investigations at the infected person’s home and workplace, which is a call centre in the north of the island with over 100 employees.
According to the Department, the investigations are to determine the source of the infection as well as the level of exposure of contacts in order to interrupt the chain of transmission. The team consists of officers from the Epidemiology Unit, the Infectious Diseases Unit, Community Nursing, Bureau of Health Education and Environmental Health.
“We operate from a holistic approach ensuring that not just screening and contact tracing is done but also thorough inspection of the surroundings and adherence to protocols. All staff members will be screened and tested as deemed necessary by the team. Staff will also receive guidance from the team on home quarantine and how to keep themselves and their families safe,” noted a release from the Department of Health.
The Department further claimed that discussions are ongoing with the management of the infected person’s workplace and that guidance has been issued to ensure that staff remains quarantined until completion of this mandatory quarantine period.
This flies in the face of information which revealed that after being tested, staff were allowed to get to their homes via public transportation, a clear violation of the COVID-19 book of protocols.
Why is it that employees were not provided with private transportation to their homes after they were tested? Why were they allowed to use private transportation?
While it is hoped that the tests taken by employees turn up negative, the Department of Health and Wellness this week re-emphasized guidance on infection prevention and control and reminded persons of the need to adhere to the protocols for home quarantine.
“We continue to receive reports of violations of home quarantine. These protocols have been put in place to protect the public, especially our most vulnerable. We appeal to persons to be more responsible and to comply with the guidelines and protocols that they have agreed to. Persons are encouraged to ensure the use of a face mask when in public, along with maintaining the six feet physical distance, covering their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when coughing and sneezing and also ensuring regular handwashing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer where soap and water are not available,” the Department stated.
Saint Lucia meanwhile recorded its 24th case of the coronavirus Thursday, which was one positive case from a batch of 60 tests conducted. The individual is a 59-year-old female who arrived in Saint Lucia on July 10, 2020. Upon return to Saint Lucia, she was placed in institutional quarantine and was tested seven days later as per quarantine protocol. Upon receipt of the results, the individual has been transferred to the respiratory hospital for isolation and related supportive care. She is currently doing well.