By Caribbean News Global contributor
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent — Luke Browne, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ minister of health, wellness and the environment, in an address to the nation last Friday, March 27, 2020, reiterated that his ministry is taking very serious the preparation for dealing with possible challenges associated with COVID-19. He reminded the public that “there is neither a vaccine nor specific anti-viral treatment for COVID-19, however, the government “has purchased the Cuban drug Interferon used to good effect in the treatment of COVID-19 cases in China and elsewhere.”
“We pay tribute to all the dedicated and hardworking professionals who have been working relentlessly on the COVID-19 national response… they are helping to protect our nation,” Browne said.
With regards to ICU beds and ventilators, the ministry of health has increased the number of ICU beds to 43 to treat COVID-19 cases and “at least 26 ventilators, — this is mission-critical”, minister Browne stated, in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Up to the time of his address, 31 cases were tested and one confirmed case. All the other results were negative including the result for the patient who was recently transported to the Kingstown Flu Clinic in an isolation chamber by individuals wearing protective gear.
As of April 1, there are two confirmed cases of COVID-19. It is another imported case. A female patient and national of St Vincent and the Grenadines with a travel history from the US, March 25. As of March 31, samples of 44 persons had been sent for testing.
“There was also a repeat test for the patient who originally tested positive. I am happy to state that the repeat test was also negative. All but one of the tests were done at the Caribbean Public Health Agency and the other was performed in Barbados.”
St Vincent and the Grenadines will soon have the capacity to test for COVID-19 as the equipment for testing has been procured and should arrive by April 3 subject to delivery arrangements, training has been lined up for lab personnel and the target date for testing is April 6, minster Browne said.
The minister of health further disclosed that the costs associated with equipment sourcing is approximately EC$300,000.00. “The work on the Isolation Centre is progressing well, and should be completed by mid-April,” minister Browne said.
He also noted that the property purchase, construction, equipment and supplies amounted to a total cost of EC$3.8 million, with the National Insurance Scheme contributing $750,000.00.
Last Thursday, the Cuban Medical Brigade arrived in St Vincent and the Grenadines. They consist of four doctors and 12 nurses, all of whom have experience in the control and management of infectious diseases and will work at the isolation centre. They will also assist with additional and ongoing training for local staff. The Medical Brigade is expected to be here for three months in the first instance, subject to renewal.
During his address to the nation last Friday evening, health minister Browne noted that the Cubans didn’t need to be in quarantine since they spent 14 days in quarantine in Cuba before embarking on the journey to St Vincent and the Grenadines.
According to health minister Browne, travelers from all countries are subject to screening. “Forty additional Nurses and/or interns are being hired. Many of them have already been trained and deployed to strengthen screening and surveillance at ports of entry.” The screening entails an interview, body temperature checks, examination for signs and symptoms, and other measures.
The minister of health, wellness and the environment continue to urge persons experiencing flu-like symptoms to stay at home and report any concern to the health authority. “If you’re supposed to be in quarantine, stay in quarantine”, minister Browne said.
He reminded the public of the toll-free COVID-19 hotline (534 4325) where health professionals will inform callers on the best action to take.
Minister Browne commended the hotline operators, communications personnel, doctors and nurses who work behind the scenes and on the front line, respectively, for their hard work, “the nation owes you a debt of gratitude,” he said.