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The principal public health advisor to the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines says containment is the greatest tool when handling a pandemic such as COVID-19.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache further said that closing national borders can be a way of containment.
She was speaking at a Ministry of Health press conference in Kingstown last week, where iWitness News asked her to say “from a public health or epidemiological perspective, what are the main arguments for or against closing national borders at a time of a pandemic such as COVID-19”.
“Okay, so, from a public health standpoint, one of our greatest tools is containment. So, closing borders can be a way of containment, but there are other ways of containment.”
She did not mention or elaborate on the other ways of containment, but said that depending on the situation, “you can apply the different ways of containment.”
The chief medical officer further stated:
“So we need containment in terms of what — when do you need containment? As it is now, we started, as prime minister said, very early on, to look at who, where our greatest risk was coming from.
“And at the beginning, that risk was from Wuhan, was from China. And therefore, we implemented the quarantine requirement for persons coming from China. And so even though the borders were not closed, anybody coming from China was contained. And so containment can happen in different ways. And I would leave it at that.”
SVG has recorded seven cases of COVID-19, imported either from the United Kingdom, North America, and Barbados.
There has been on-going debate across the political divide as the nation keeps its borders open, even as several other Caribbean countries have long closed them to all but essential travel.
Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday has called for immediate closure of the borders.
Prime Minister Gonsalves has said that his government would do so, if the circumstances warrant it.
Speaking at the same press conference, on Friday, Gonsalves said that SVG, through its own restrictions which it has made or those from outside “is on a lockdown”.
“I’m talking about persons entering St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said, noting that no international flights were coming and regional carrier LIAT was suspending its service for 14 days.
“So you have SVG Air and you have One Caribbean and Mustique Airways and it’s a good thing,” Gonsalves said, but noted that a 14-day quarantine was in effect for all persons entering the country.
The prime minister said that no one is coming into the ports of entry because the government is not allowing persons who come from Canada, the United States, Britain or Europe to quarantine on their vessels.
“You have to quarantine in St. Vincent, so they’re not coming,” he said.