The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on Monday, held an event in Union Island that brought together more than 50 persons, even as health officials were advocating social distancing and warning against mass gatherings amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event was held to hand over the satellite warehouse at Clifton to the Kingstown-based National Emergency Management Organisation.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves was the featured speaker at the event that included in its audience Minister of Education, Jimmy Prince and Parliamentary Secretary in that Ministry, Senator Deborah Charles, along with Minister of National Mobilization, Frederick Stephenson.
Director of the NEMO, Michelle Forbes and Director of Grenadines Affairs, Edwin Snagg also attended the event, according to photos posted on the Facebook page of Office of the Prime Minister.
The Office of the Prime Minister said on Facebook:
“It was an excellent ceremony that reinforced this government’s commitment to improving the capacity of communities to respond in times of disaster.”
The event took place even as Chief Medical Officer Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache issued anadvisory on social distancing and mass gatherings, focusing on faith leaders and event organisers.
In the statement, Keizer-Beache noted that COVID-19 has spread around the globe to the Caribbean, including St Vincent and the Grenadines — which has one confirmed case of the illness.
She said that in order to reduce the likelihood of further spread within SVG, the World Health Organisation has recommended “social distancing”.
Social distancing is a non- medical tactic used to keep people physically apart from each other as close contact helps to spread the virus, Keizer-Beache said.
Social distancing is particularly important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 because there is no vaccine to protect against the virus that causes this disease.
She said that the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment was, therefore, issuing the following advisory to faith leaders, event organizers and the general public:
- Faith leaders are asked to be socially, culturally and spiritually flexible at this time and be proactive to protect themselves and their congregations. The following measures are advised:
a. As far as is possible, reduce the number of church services and conduct services virtually if possible.
b. Limit those attending church functions to a number that allows between 3 and 6 feet of space between persons in a seated group (typically 25 or less).
c. Keep already planned weddings to a limited gathering of a maximum of 10 persons for the ceremony. The reception could be postponed.
d. Postpone or cancel all non-essential social and cultural gatherings.
e. Avoid visiting the house-bound members especially the elderly. In this regard, it is suggested that phone contact would be most appropriate. This will reduce the risk of infecting the vulnerable sick and elderly.
f. Limit those attending funerals to immediate family members (between 10 and 25 persons). An attendance by invitation only approach can be utilized.
g. Keep members informed consistently with official, accurate and up-to-date information.
2. Event organisers and the general public:
a. Ensure no overcrowding at events and maintain at least three feet (six feet if possible) between people.
b. Hygiene and physical distancing must be combined. Shaking hands, kissing and hugging as forms of greeting should be avoided. Consider smiling, waving or bumping elbows.
c. Keep patrons informed consistently and constantly.
d. Avoid the lunchroom rush if you eat in the employee dining room, cafeteria, or a restaurant. Eat earlier or later, eat at home or eat with just a few people in a quiet area, inside or out.
e. Avoid using public pensat the retail counter, at the building or hotel guest registration, at the bank, in the revenue office, and other public places. Use your own pen. In conference rooms, don’t use the public whiteboard markers. Carry your own.
f. Avoid the commuter rush periods where possible if you use public transportation. Employers should consider staggering start times for work and allowing work from homes. Avoid times when you’ll be exposed to crowds.
g. Find a quiet place if you are in a public space such as a business office or restaurant.
h. Substitute tele-meetings for face-to-face meetings and reduce the number or duration of face-to-face meetings. Shift as much of the agenda as possible to email or teleconference.
i. Use larger conference rooms if you must meet face-to-face.
“These recommendations for limiting non-essential contact are guided by scientific evidence, and will go a long way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. To date, St Vincent and the Grenadines has recorded one confirmed case of COVID-19. The support and cooperation of all citizens are needed at this time, if we are to minimize any further spread of COVID-19,” Keizer Beache said.