An opposition senator is expressing concern about the government’s response as a fourth locally transmitted case of COVID-19 has been recorded in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Senator Israel Bruce, speaking on NICE Radio Tuesday night, suggested that as had been widely rumoured for about a week, local transmission of the viral illness had occurred in Greiggs.
Bruce has been identified as the main opposition New Democratic Party’s candidate for South Central Windward, in which Greiggs is located.
He used his appearance on the radio station to urge residents of the district to observe the physical distancing guidelines announced by the Ministry of Health.
Bruce said he had done a Facebook Live broadcast the previous day, addressing “the COVID-19 issue and its relevance and its impact on the South Central Windward constituency”.
“And I zeroed in on the community of Greiggs for obvious reasons,” Bruce said.
He, however, said that on his way to the radio station Tuesday night, he saw a number of persons “persons trying to grab” Lottery tickets at a shop.
“I just want to say to the residents of Greiggs, again, that while I can appreciate that you want to grab the opportunity to win some cash in this very harsh economic climate, I don’t think you need to run the risk of not adhering to the social distancing protocol that has been suggested by our local Ministry of Health, regional and international health organizations.
“I’m not saying don’t get your, your 3C or your lotto tickets, I’m saying keep the distance as is suggested, so that you protect yourself because as far as I am concerned, being the layman on community health education, I am of the view that we now bursting on the scene of a community spread.”
Bruce said he had learned that case #16 had been announced Tuesday night, adding that he had said on the previous day that Cases 16 and 17 were “likely to be announced within 24-48 hours and they’re both likely to come from the same community of Greiggs.
“And it is not for scare mongering. Of course, as a politician who is with it, who’s on the ground, I get my information, I have the intel, and when the ministry wants to release information, that’s the ministry’s choice, but all I’m saying to the people of Greiggs [and the other communities in South Central Windward], please let us manage this in the best way as we can.”
The government, on Wednesday, did not announce any additional COVID-19 cases, but said that three results were pending, including two for medical clearance of patients who are believed to have recovered from the viral illness.
Bruce said constituents have been reaching out to him.
“… and the question has been asked whether or not the government is going to seek to put measures in place.
“It may not be a total shut down of the Greiggs community but whether or not the government is going to be prepared to implement measures to prevent any further possible community spread in the community of Greiggs of the COVID-19 virus.
“All I am doing is that as a voice of the people, I am echoing what the constituents have been raising with me.”
‘a small cluster of import related cases’
In a statement Tuesday night, the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) said that the case #16 is “closely associated” with the last three cases and forms part of “a small cluster of import-related cases”.
The government did not disclose any further information about the cases, but noted that eight of the nation’s COVID-19 patients have recovered.
But Bruce said that an intervention in the community is “something worth considering”.
“As I said yesterday, Greiggs, geographically, is a small area, size-wise, but from the population, it is very large. So it meant that that sort of constant interaction and distancing is sometimes not even as particular as we want it to be and so, we may now have to consider using other measures by virtue of the concentration of the population in that community,” Bruce said.
“I am not bastardising Greiggs. I’m very strict about that nobody should seek to bastardise any community in my constituency because of a COVID transmission.”
The senator said he wanted to focus on the community and the fact that there is a fourth case confirmed in the small village.
“I am still asking our residents of Greiggs to practice social distancing, to keep washing their hands, to keep sanitising their hands, if you think that you can‘t maintain the social distance as you should, then put on your protective mask,” said Bruce, who was wearing a mask during his radio appearance on “Current Affairs”, which was also streamed on Facebook Live.
“I did say yesterday I am looking at some measure that may be able to provide some assistance to residents of South Central Windward and maybe the first and sharpened focus is going to be on Greiggs. Expect that within the next 24 to 48 hours there will be some moves by your humble servants and the Team 2020 to make sure that we are assisting the people of South Central Windward.”
In its press release, NEMO said that its Health Services Sub-committee reminds Vincentians of the importance of maintaining the effective public health measures currently in place which have served to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in SVG.
“The safe use of face coverings including homemade masks, along with hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and physical distancing must be strictly adhered to, along with compliance to quarantine and isolation instructions,” NEMO said.
Meanwhile, Bruce also criticized Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and Minister of Health Luke Browne for not following the government’s advice to wear facemasks in public as a way of helping to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“I have no personal issue with the Honourable Minister of Health and the Honourable Prime Minister but we have been advocating through the ministry’s protocols and these two gentlemen — if I can call them that – have been going about here, there and everywhere, function after function, after function that are COVID-related and have not been demonstrating that level of leadership to the people,” the senator said.
“Minister of Health is telling people to do this and the minister is right there doing so such. I saw somebody make reference to a photograph in one of our periodicals. The minister and the Chief Medical Officer are sitting like two feet apart, none of them wearing any protective gear. It can’t be do as I say but don’t do as I do.