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SVG didn’t drop the ball on Covid-19 – Health minister

SVG didn’t drop the ball on Covid-19 – Health minister

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HEALTH MINISTER, St Clair Prince says that the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines did not drop the ball in its management of COVID-19.

Rather, the extensive measures implemented by the relevant authorities succeeded in preventing the rise in cases of COVID-19 in SVG for 10 months, while neighbouring countries experienced “scores of cases”.

And to date, no community spread has been recorded here.

Prince was responding to a question posed in Parliament last week by Opposition leader, Dr Godwin Friday, when he made those statements.

During last Thursday’s sitting, Friday noted that there has been a rapid increase of COVID-19 in SVG in recent weeks, with most of the positive cases involving persons with no recent travel history.

The opposition asked the health minister to agree that this situation means that there is community spread of the virus in the country, as well as that the Government had dropped the ball by failing to put in place and enforce effective measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus locally.

“Community transmission of COVID19 as defined by the World Health Organisation on March 13, 2020 is evidenced by the inability to relate confirmed cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases or by increasing positive tests through sentinel samples,” Prince said in response. “The official WHO definition does not reference ‘no recent travel history’. For the majority of confirmed cases in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the chains of transmission have been identified as contacts of known positive cases and therefore not in keeping with the definition of community transmission.”

The health minister said transmission patterns currently being found in SVG are in keeping with the categorisation of “clusters of cases”, which is defined as cases that are clustered in time, geographical location, and/or by common exposures.

The clusters identified so far are associated with ministerial departments, churches, parties, private sector workplaces and families.

Prince also noted that “clusters of cases” is the categorisation that has been assigned to SVG in PAHO’s COVID-19 Situation Update issued on January 22.

“The epidemiology unit of the ministry of health, wellness and the environment will continuously review the transmission patterns to determine what category best describes the disease

in SVG as this categorisation contributes to the various strategic interventions implemented in this battle against COVID-19 in this country,” he said.

The health minister also insisted that the government did not drop the ball as it relates to COVID-19.

He said that “between March 11 2020 to December 26, 2020, this country recorded a total of 110 cases while neighbouring countries such as St Lucia, Grenada, Trinidad, Martinique and Barbados were experiencing scores of cases for months”.

Prince told Parliament that the government, through NEMO’s coordinated approach led by the Health Services Subcommittee, and close work with the ministry of National Security, has implemented and continuously adapted measures in keeping with the constantly changing knowledge and epidemiology of the coronavirus pandemic.

He added that close attention was paid to measures implemented in other nations, their successes and failures and the emerging knowledge about the virus to craft measures suitable to the context of the multi-island state that is SVG.

“The multi-pronged strategy included reducing the risk of the introduction of the virus into St Vincent and the Grenadines, while strengthening the country’s capacity to detect, test, treat and contain the virus,” the health minister said. “Poor compliance with existing protocols, once persons are outside the mandatory quarantine hotels is without doubt a problem. This is not unique to St Vincent and the Grenadines and is found in countries even with draconian measures.”

The total count of COVID-19 cases in SVG, as at February 1 stood at 951, of which 802 are local cases recorded in persons with no recent travel history, since the end of December.

Two persons have died. There are currently 658 active cases.