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Risking COVID-19 Community Spread

By VOICE Reporter
Image of an aerial view of part of the bustling city

There is growing evidence that the relevant authorities need to do more than just talk if community spread of the novel coronavirus, popularly called COVID-19, is to be prevented.

At the time of writing, Saint Lucia had recorded a total of 25 COVID-19 cases, 22 of which had fully recovered, with the remaining three cases bedded at the Respiratory Hospital in a stable condition, as noted by a statement from the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

A total of 3,548 tests have been conducted to date. The Ministry claimed that two out of the three patients still under observation have recovered clinically and do not show any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, however they still record positive COVID-19 test results.

The last confirmed case, at the time of writing, was an 86-year-old man said to be recovering well in care. All his family members, friends and health care workers disclosed to the contact tracing team were screened and tested and to date the results have been negative.

“The health team continues to monitor and investigate the source of infection,” stated the Ministry, observing that with the phased re-opening of the country the risk for introduction of COVID-19 had increased.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness who has yet to determine or disclose where the elderly gentleman contracted the virus however has advised the public that all protocols are still in place including the reduced numbers for public transportation and protocols for private sector establishments.

But stating that COVID-19 protocols are still in place for public transportation is one thing, enforcing these protocols however has proven to be another.

In recent weeks, buses plying routes all over the island have been seen, packed to capacity, in total violation of COVID-19 protocols for public transportation.

This week the VOICE spoke to drivers regarding their loads most of whom seemed to find the whole matter comical, or in the case of one particular driver, noted that passengers must learn to take care of their own affairs, further that it was not the role of the driver to persuade commuters not to pack buses to capacity.

A spokesperson for The National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT) explained that meetings were held with various minibus associations informing their members of the need to stick to COVID-19 protocols.

The NCOPT’s representative said that despite these meetings “drivers continue to do their own thing.”

One police officer said she had to get off a bus that plies another route in a show of protest to a driver who, after being spoken to, refused to limit the amount of passengers as dictated by COVID-19 protocols for public transportation.

The NCOPT’s representative believes that the authorities need to take another look at the Statutory Instrument that speaks to public transportation in this COVID-19 era.  According to the NCOPT spokesperson, the latest Statutory Instrument is not specific in several details some being the conduct of bus drivers, commuters and other aspects pertaining to buses that ply the various routes on the island.

Even home quarantine protocols have been violated of late, one such case being a returning national from the United Kingdom who, on being investigated, was noted to have breached several of the protocols. The individual and members of their household are presently in a government-operated quarantine facility for the mandatory 14-day stay.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness this week reiterated the importance of quarantine for returning nationals and visitors stating that it is a great measure in minimizing the risk of transmitting COVID-19.

“It is with this we ask people to adhere to the 14-day quarantine time and for those in home quarantine, to stay there for the full period of time. This action is expected to protect the health and safety of individuals within our country. We appeal to everyone to continue supporting our national effort to minimize the threat of COVID-19 on our island,” the Ministry stated.

Meanwhile, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the risk of contracting the virus is high in Saint Lucia and recommends that travelers should avoid all non-essential travel to the island.

Local authorities met yesterday to craft out a response to the CDC’s assessment of the COVID-19 situation in the country, seemingly shocked by the assessment.

Health Minister Mary Isaac told Saint Lucia Times that the advisory put out by the CDC was puzzling and that she was unaware of any justification for the valuation, bearing in mind that Saint Lucia has been able to contain the virus.

The travel advisory, Isaac said, was a blow to local health agencies – the minister said there was need to determine on what basis the CDC arrived at that assessment.

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