MORE Saint Lucians are wearing masks today than ever before as personnel from the Ministry of Health and Wellness gear up to curb a possible spread of the coronavirus following the positive status of a male bus driver plying the Castries/Vieux Fort route.
This case, which represents Saint Lucia’s 29th, has health authorities worried as it poses the highest risk to date for a community spread of the disease.
Of concern to authorities is the source from whence the bus driver got infected as they go about undertaking the necessary assessments and testing in an effort to identify the source and contain the spread of the virus.
This has led to a nationwide call by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and Chief Medical Officer Sharon Belmar – George for everyone to wear a mask in public, a penalty of Which will be slapped on anyone who violates the order.
Police Commissioner Severin Monchery has vowed to get tough with persons who violate the order saying on national television Sunday that police officers will be enforcing the law as it pertains to mask wearing.
We would prefer to have compliance instead of having to use the long arm of the law to discipline the undisciplined,” he said.
Monchery quoted section 21 (1) of the COVID-19 Act to underscore his point. According to the Act: In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a person shall — (a) wear a mask or suitable covering over his or her nose and mouth when in public; and (b) at all times as far as practicable, distance himself or herself at a prescribed space from any other person.
The Act went on to state that notwithstanding subsection (1), a person shall comply with a request to temporarily remove or adjust his or her mask or suitable covering over his or her nose and mouth to confirm his or her identification if such request is made by — (a) a member of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force; or (b) the owner of premises that the person has entered or is seeking to enter. And that a person who contravenes this section commits an offence, which Monchery said is $1000 or six months imprisonment or both, underscoring the point that there will be full enforcement of this particular section of the Act.
Meanwhile the bus driver is said to at the Respiratory Hospital in care and that his COVID-19 test was repeated, validated and confirmed positive.
According to the Ministry of Health a total of about 500 persons have been reviewed in relation to this new case. This includes close contacts, mini bus drivers, and commuters from the bus route and residents from the community.
“Two hundred and eighty-three tests have been done and the results received so far are negative. About 50 people have been placed in quarantine to date. The community and contacts of the case will be monitored for a period of 14 days to assess the impact of this case,” noted the Ministry of Health in a statement yesterday afternoon.
According to the statement this past weekend, in response to the bus driver’s case, investigations and contact tracing commenced in communities and amongst key populations of concern and these activities are still ongoing. In addition Respiratory Clinics were extended over the past weekend to support contact tracing related to the case. The Constituency Council Office in La Resource was set up as a community outpost to aid in accelerating assessment and testing as part of advanced planning for the possibility of a community outbreak.
The present quarantine capacity and testing capacity have been reviewed and the capacity for increased cases which may be required are at the Respiratory Hospital.
“Interventions in the more affected communities included health education and the distribution of face masks at key locations, and the strengthening of preventative and control measures with the support of community leaders and gate keepers. The scheduled social activities for affected communities are being reviewed to determine their adherence to protocols or the requirement for cancellation,” The Health Ministry noted, adding that the bus driver’s case presents a high level of risk at the community level.
“We continue to appeal to the public to cooperate and share relevant information with the health team. We also remind the public that the Ministry of Health remains the official source of accurate information and should seek clarification at that level,” the Ministry said.