Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says that his government has secured, through an engagement with Canouan investor Dermot Desmond, the retrofitting of up to five shipping containers to be used in the Grenadines as isolation units.
Gonsalves said, on Saturday, that these units will be equipped so that they can be used in certain Grenadine islands — such as Union Island, Canouan, Bequia — and maybe two of them for use in rural St. Vincent.
“I’ve had discussions with the chief executive officer of the Mustique Company on steps [to be taken] on Mustique. I want to assure you that the government and your prime minister have been working assiduously at this matter, to keep us safe.
He further said that work on the isolation centre in the Mt Pleasant-Argyle area was expected to start last weekend.
“The centre has been retrofitted to accommodate a maximum of 24 patients — 14 upstairs and 10 downstairs and support facilities,” Gonsalves said.
He said that while he hopes that no one would have to be kept there because of the COVID-19 pandemic, “we are being prepared”.
The prime minister said that a second building on the site is to be repaired and retrofitted to accommodate nursing and medical personnel.
“And the third group of buildings are to be constructed for additional housing and for staff and eating facilities,” he said.
The prime minister further said: “In all, rooms will be provided for up to 12 nursing and medical personnel on site at any one time.
He said that three separate contractors have been selected to work on these three sets of physical facilities.
“We expect that by mid-April 2020, all these facilities will be ready for occupation,” he said, adding that in the meanwhile, other existing health facilities may be used in any emergency.
He said his government wants to build out the facility at Argyle in such a way, not just for COVID-19.
“… but the truth is this, the way the world is going, communications all over the world and the movement of peoples, you’re going to expect that you’re going to have these opportunistic viruses happening more and more. We have seen them over the last 10-15 years: H1N1, bird flu, Ebola, now coronavirus.”
The cost of retrofitting and constructing the facilities at Mount Pleasant-Argyle is roughly $1.3 million, Gonsalves said.
“That doesn’t have to do with the leasing of the premises, which we are negotiating to purchase. And it’s a big property.”