St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) will, on July 1, implement a new protocol for travellers to the country.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said on NBC Radio on Wednesday that the aim of the protocol is the safe entry of travellers in a manner that reduces the risk of importation and subsequent transmission of COVID-19 in the country.
“This has come about through detailed discussions internally and following the WHO guidelines and what we discuss at CARICOM as advised by CARPHA,” he said.
The protocol has three objectives, namely: 1. establish the risk of the arriving traveller introducing new COVID 19 to SVG; 2. minimise exposure of residents of SVG to a new COVID-19; 3. early identification of potential exposure to new COVID-19; and, 4. early containment of new COVID-19.
To aid in establishing risk of the arriving traveller, the traveller would be required to complete a Vincy COVID online application process or to complete forms at the port of entry.
Regarding testing and quarantine requirements, a first phase will run from July 1 to July 31.
“This phase will be used to determine the incidence of COVID-19 in passengers arriving from different countries. All travellers to SVG will have a PCR COVID-19 test done on arrival,” Gonsalves said.
He noted that the test involves a nasal swab, rather than the drawing of blood.
Phase 2, which commences Aug. 1, will be based on the data gathered in July and the current epidemiology of the pandemic.
“And depending on what happens in that month (July) and the data which we collect, we are going to be able to see which are the higher risk countries coming in, the passengers from the higher risk countries and where we should deal with them and use other methods in relation to others,” Gonsalves said.
He said there will be “a CARICOM bubble”, consisting of Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, the British Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, St. Lucia, Dominica, Montserrat and Anguilla.
“This means that there will be special arrangements within the bubble,” he said, noting that while Haiti is a CARICOM nation, it is not included in this bubble “because things have gotten out of hand in Haiti in recent times”.
Gonsalves further stated:
“We are unsure about Suriname and we are still a little unsure about Belize but Belize may make the cut with this thing because the professionals will advise on that.
“So you will use lesser forms of surveillance than the PCR. You do the temperature testing, the people [will] look at you, see if you have the symptoms because we are managing risk and we have to open up. But we never closed, properly speaking, but we had restrictions.”
He said that the SVG protocol defines a country of origin as a country in which the traveller spent at least 14 days before arriving in SVG.
Travellers from CARICOM will have to complete a questionnaire.
“But there’ll be no COVID-19 laboratory tests. They use other forms of detection like, for instance … the people observing you, the temperature tests. And we’re having those with the more sophisticated cameras, which would be out there at the ports of entry to be able to gauge the temperature, testing it more accurate than some others. We have a few of those.”
Travellers from the non-CARICOM bubble will be subjected to PCR tests on arrival.
“You’ll have a 24-hour quarantine because you await the result in your home or in your hotel because we have the PCR machines — we have more than one and we have enough of the reagents and we will order more,” Gonsalves said.
He reiterated that everyone arriving in SVG in July will be subjected to a PCR test.
“…we will then adjust from August — adjust or not adjust as the case may be … If you arrive with negative antibody tests within five days — that test you do within five days of arriving, that is the rapid test, if you do that antibody test within five days before you come and you get a negative PCR test which is done within a day, then absolutely no quarantine.”
He said that unlike some jurisdictions, SVG is not demanding a mandatory 14 days’ quarantine.
“We’re not demanding that. But you can make your life easier if where you are, within five days of coming in, you get … one of the rapid tests and you come and you have your certificate to say, listen, three days ago, I did this, two days ago I did this.
“We’re still going to do a negative PCR test. But we do a PCR test and if you get a negative result, there’d be no quarantine for you at all, not even the 24 hour period, because we could get the PCR test done within four hours assuming everything goes well, and there’s a process on arrival, and the details for that,” Gonsalves said.
Regarding the testing procedure, the prime minister said all passengers will be screened before entering the arrivals area.
“Screening may include probing for symptoms, temperature checks and laboratory specimen collection depending on whether you’re in the bubble or outside of the bubble…
“All travellers will be required to go immediately to their private accommodation site to await the results of the PCR tests — either your home or your hotel. Persons going to a government facility will be boarded on an agreed appropriate vehicle to await departure.
“Persons with adequate home facilities for quarantine relative to risk assessment will be allowed to leave. So we have fashioned these new rules, new protocols, new regulations which constitute the protocol. And I expect cabinet to approve these today,” Gonsalves said.