An Upsurge In Cases Of COVID -19 On The Island, Four Deaths, New Health Protocols, Prime Minister To Take Sputnik Vaccine
(By Ernesto Cooke) – The Caribbean Island of St Vincent and the Grenadines is now facing a different war on COVID-19 than it did in 2020.
On March 27, 2020, the island’s former Health Minister Luke Browne stated in a national address that St Vincent had no confirmed cases of COVID 19.
From then on, the nation recorded sporadic cases from returning nationals and visitors; however, in December 2020, the situation took a deadly turn.
Not only did cases begin to rise on the Island, but the country also recorded its first death; that of a 49-year-old female.
Three other COVID-19 related deaths have been recorded with the latest being an 88-year-old male on February 6.
Cases have continued to rise with the Island recording the highest numbers ever (103) on February 4. As of Sunday 7th February, there were 1283 recorded cases.
The Island’s Minister of Health St Clair Prince on February 5, declared St Vincent’s mode Of COVID transmission had changed from Cluster of Cases to Community Spread.
However, before such an announcement, the WHO had noted community spread on the Island to which health officials objected.
The WHO changed that categorization; however, the leading health body’s previous pronouncement has come full circle.
The island’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Simone Keizer-Beache said that clearing the backlog of samples from persons tested had helped the Ministry determine Community Spread.
She said most cases were from contacts of positive instances, routine screening, and testing of persons with flu symptoms.
High Number Of Cases From Northern Districts
In a release issued on Friday, the Health Ministry said a significant proportion of the cases recorded from testing done between January 20th and 28th came from Georgetown health district, specifically Sandy Bay.
These communities are located in the North-Eastern corridor of the Island.
Also mentioned in the release was the Chateaubelair Health District. The communities within this area are located on the North-Western corridor.
Positivity Rate To Increase Says, Chief Medical Officer
A review of the COVID-19 cases since December 16, 2020, revealed that the positivity rate for COVID-19 testing dramatically increased from 6.6% on January 11 to 15.7% on January 21, 16.6% on January 28 and 15.3% on January 30.
Testing samples taken on February 1st and 2nd give incidence rates of 2.7% and 3.2%.
Given the incubation period of 14 days, increases in these rates due to spread around January 28 are anticipated in the coming days.
New Protocols Announced
The Health Ministry on the Island stated that due to community spread of COVID-19, additional measures under the Public Health Act of 2020 have been recommended, and statutory rules and orders are currently being drafted for a ticketing system in support of their enforcement:
The mandatory use of masks in all public vehicles.
All public vehicles may only transport a maximum of half their permitted number of passengers.
(A 20-seater van will be allowed to transport ten persons inclusive of the driver and conductor.)
No indoor dining in eating establishments. Only take away service will be allowed for indoor restaurants. Outdoor dining with adequate spacing is permitted.
Enforcement of all mass gathering components with particular emphasis on indoor gatherings at places of entertainment such as bars, gambling sheds, and rum shops.
Mandatory masks in all public establishments and private establishments to which the public has access.
Ministry officials say these measures will commence with the publication of the Statutory Rules and Orders specific to the ticketing system to be implemented.
The publication would be ready on Monday, February 8, 2021. These measures will be in place for four weeks in the first instance.
According to Health Officials, twenty (20) samples of the Sputnik V COVID-19 arrived in St Vincent and the Grenadines last week.
The island’s Infectious Disease Specialist Dr Jerrol Thompson and the Medical Officer Dr Roger Duncan, have been vaccinated.
Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine gives around 92% protection against Covid-19, late-stage trial results published in The Lancet revealed.
The Caribbean nation was also notified that they would receive some 45,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine.
The vaccines are the first of the assigned doses to satisfy COVAX’s agreement with the Island.
Prime Minister Gonsalves To Take Sputnik Vaccine
In hopes that citizens would be relieved of any doubts about taking the COVID-19 jab, the islands Prime Minister is expected to take the Sputnik Vaccine on Tuesday, February 9.
Last Thursday In the island’s parliament, Gonsalves said he was pondering whether to take the vaccine.
“My first instinct was not to take it, because I don’t want it to be said that 20 vaccines came from sputnik came and Ralph gone and put himself in the queue”, the Prime Minister said.
Gonsalves said that he would be among the group that should take the vaccine given his age.
“Several journalists told me the feedback they are getting is that persons would only take the vaccine Russian or any other if he Gonsalves gets his shot”, Gonsalves told parliament.
Swiss Regulator Doubts Over AstraZeneca
Switzerland has refused to approve the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid vaccine for use in the country.
It is the latest country to have concerns over the vaccine’s effectiveness in over 65’s – after similar worries in France, Germany and Austria.
Dr Claus Bolte, head of authorization at medicines regulator Swiss Medic, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme his team were “not satisfied with the data we have received”.
Dr Bolte said the precise details of their concerns were confidential but added: “What I can say is that yes, it pertains to different age groups, over-65s and over-55s as well.
“It pertains to comorbidity, preexisting conditions like asthma, hypertension, diabetes.