Minister of Health, Senator Luke Browne and other health officials at Friday’s press conference in Kingstown. (iWN photo)

There is “reasonable likelihood” that the COVID-19 virus will reach St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Minister of Health, Senator Luke Browne told a press conference in Kingstown on Friday.

The virus has already spread to a number of Caribbean countries, including St. Martin, St. Barts, and Martinique, and the minister said his government is prepared for any eventuality.

“St. Vincent and the Grenadines has the capacity, right now, to deal with any case that might arise. So I think that we are tending in the right direction,” Browne said.

He added:

“I could tell you, that on a scale of one to 10, the priority that the ministry has given to this thing is at 10 and it’s not at 10 because of the fact that is going to cause people to suffer in a way that is different from, say, the flu or some other infectious disease.

“But it’s at 10 because it gives us an opportunity to reinforce — well, first of all, to strengthen our health system and its capacity, and to reinforce messages related to good hygiene in general. And I think that that has the potential to spill over into our better response and treatment and engagement with other things that might arise from time to time.”

Browne said that the government is putting into place, facilities to test for the virus locally, noting that Dominica is the only Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States nation that has such capacity at this time.

“The cabinet and government consider it to be an urgent matter. I’m hoping that maybe within this month, we might be able to go through all the stages of procurement, bringing on island and being able to carry out tests here,” Browne said.

He said SVG is “not going to be necessarily at a grave disadvantage in the meantime”, noting that in addition to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency, Barbados can assist with testing.

The minister was asked to say, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how his ministry ranks the likelihood of a COVID-19 case in SVG.

Browne said:

“Well, I shared my frame of mind earlier, when I said that a gentleman and someone who I respect and who’s learned said that we should be approaching COVID-19 as if it is already here, you know, and that’s what we’re doing.

“I mean, in terms of the likelihood of it coming here, you see that it has penetrated the world. It has gotten to basically our borders, you might say. There’s a reasonable likelihood that we might have a case in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And that’s why we’re shifting into a mode of being able to detect and manage those cases. I’m not sure what a reasonable likelihood to transmit translates to on your scale of one to 10.”

The health minister said that even as his ministry sees as “reasonable likelihood” that the virus would make its way to SVG, that “isn’t to say that, you know, the world will come to an end, if that happens.

“We’ve already established that most cases are mild; we’ve already established that the chances of someone dying from it are very low and particular groups are especially vulnerable, including those that are old.”

He said that the government has identified a property in Argyle “which I think is this culturally suitable, maybe even a godsend” for use as an isolation facility.

“And we have to do some significant work on it to make it ready. I’m not sure that I could comment specifically on a timeframe, no, but what I could say is that the work has commenced, we are basically on the verge of concluding a lease arrangement.”

Recently, amidst objections by villagers, the government abandoned its plans to convert Evesham Health Centre into an isolation facility, and prime minister Ralph Gonsalves, noted that no one wants such a facility in their neighbourhood.

Browne said that once the isolation facility is completed, the government would move swiftly to having it ready for use should the need arise.

Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer, Simone Keizer-Beache told the same press conference that her ministry is anticipating being able to house 20 patients at the isolation facility.

There will also be provisions for staff members, she said.

Keizer-Beache, a physician, said that the property could be expanded to accommodate 40 persons.

“However, if necessary, today, we can accommodate two persons with an expansion to 28 persons…  We can manage that until we get to where the facility is ready,” she said.

“So let us not, as the minister would say, panic. But our focus is, yes, readiness because we definitely believe in prevention and readiness as key,” Keizer-Beache said.

7 replies on “Gov’t prepared amidst ‘reasonable likelihood’ of COVID-19 reaching SVG”

  1. Brown Boy US says:

    Government is prepared to do what, bury the dead? You have no way of testing for the virus on the island, no quarantine facility in place. So may I dare ask, prepared to do what?

  2. Jolly Green says:

    We should all be deeply worried about any scheme brought to us by Luke Browne. He is not a doctor, he is not a scientist, in fact he is not even as far as I am concerned a proper politician. But that’s perhaps an unfair personal opinion on my part, the politician part that is.

    I hope the people can contact Browne and question him about the CoronaVirus containment killing lodge breeding scheme.

    I suppose that last sentence may be seen as contradictory, and even a little confusing. But what we must consider when looking at anything brought to us by this government “is it the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. To try and stop people from questioning they announced that anyone making such statements, questions, and answers as I bring here, to impose a year in prison. Well that should not cut any ice; these are our lives they are playing with.

    It is now known that the virus is not just airborne, spread by coughs and sneezes. It is contained in urine, stools and all bodily excretions. That means the virus can be spread by bad hygiene practices. Hence thoroughly washing hands, not shaking hands or touching other people. Do not touch the flush handles in toilets, or door handles, hand rails, or anything that could have been touched by others. Better to stay away from public transport and close contact with groups or crowds.

    There is good reason to stay away from strangers, foreigners, and people that frequently travel abroad to other countries or even islands within the state of SVG. Even stay away from Ralph Gonsalves who is a frequent traveler abroad. Plus he touches and hugs just about anyone he can touch or hug. Even the now retired DPP said that he is known as “Hugginson Kissinger” and that women are mistaken when accusing him of rape and molestation, it was only fatherly hugs and kisses. That was stated in the Las Angeles Times interview with DPP Williams. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2008-may-25-fg-rape25-story.html

    Those that possibly have been infected or are infected should all be kept separately in separate hermetically sealed rooms. To keep all together means that even if you were not infected you will become infected at the government facility. Putting all in a house together without proper separation, and airscrubber cleansing and purification equipment could well be a death warrant for some. Even the staf and security staff should be dressed in hazard proof clothing, proper anti-virus air breathing equipment.

    Are they controlling every port and entry point into SVG, I suspect not. Are they making every visitor answer a list of relevant questions, I suspect not, are they testing every passenger at the airport with a hand held thermometer, I know they are not.

    So what are they doing.
    Well we know they are encouraging cruise ships to dock with sick passengers that were refused everywhere else. We also know today a ship load of Italians and French landed at Kingstown on the ‘Preziosa”, Italy is currently the most infested country in Europe, airlines have stopped flying there.

    Current position of MSC Preziosa: Kingstown (St. Vincent)/Lesser Antilles
    Sailed on 22nd Feb from Martinique, Guadaloupe 1st March 2020.

    In Martinique they protested about a plane load of Italians arriving at the island to join the cruise ship. A protest against the landing of an Air Italia flight from Milan, a region where the number of cases of coronavirus is constantly increasing, several dozen people gathered Saturday evening in front of Aimé Césaire du Lamentin airport in Martinique . The demonstration resulted in clashes with the police. & Nbsp;

    WHAT! Are you sure? Sure I am sure, ASK RALPH, but on the phone not in person.

    Just think about this. If the CoronaVirus hits SVG he will be able to call a State Emergency and put off the elections for months, maybe years. Unless of course he gets it himself, and at his age it will be goodnight nurse, in Cuba of course, Buenas noches enfermera.

  3. They are so lie about this whole situation. They had said that there were 2 quarantine stations: one at AIA and at MCMH. When push came to shove persons are being quarantined at their homes. So careless carefree and lie this government.

  4. Trish Robinson says:

    I only hope and pray the island would be able to deal with this virus everyone just have to co-operate and stick to the hygiene routine and just look after each other especially the elderly

  5. Nicholas Providence says:

    It is good to see that the government is taking the scourge of COVID-19 seriously by being in a pre-emptive mode. However, it would have been better if we had everything in place to fight the first case should it strike us at anytime. We are still lacking the infrastructures for testing and housing patient. Hope these things will be implemented before anyone gets ill to avoid us seeking help from the other Caribbean countries who have the testing facilities.
    By way, seeing that we don’t have the means to carry out testing as yet would this not impact our screening process adversely? This could be case since we will have to wait on the results from overseas testing to confirm whether a case is positive or negative. This can cause the disease to spread while waiting on test results. Or it would be a case of isolating suspicious cases until the results are confirmed to avoid the spread?
    Based on the nature of the virus we should be spared it wrath by follow proper hygiene and it susceptibility to our hot climate. With these two advantage on our side we should be able to do well in fighting this virus. Anyway, I hope we can find an antidote for this virus soon. Let do our best to fight this virus and keep our nation healthy and stronger.

  6. Does the health ministry of SVG have anything in places like the airport, sea port,, especially checking the cruise ships as they arrive here? I don’t feel safe with our health system! They move too slow!

  7. now is the time for unity and come together for one common cause but you FOOLS AND NINCOMPOOPS like tribalism …………if you cant say nothing constructive and helpful then STHU !!!!!. SHUT THE LATRINE DOOR MAN !!
    death dont choose who to take .

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