Disaster management and health officials are considering the COVID-19 pandemic as they devise evacuation plans, should evacuation become necessary as a result of the ongoing effusive eruption of La Soufriere.
“The Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment has a multi-hazard disaster preparedness plan and during the hurricane season, we had made adjustment to our hurricane response plan to accommodate COVID because in the hurricane response plan we have to cater to persons being in shelters,” Chief Medical Officer, Simone Keizer-Beache told a press conference on Tuesday.
The volcano, on Dec. 28, was found to be in an effusive state of eruption in which magma is oozing from the 4,048-foot-high volcano.
Keizer-Beache noted that while plans were made within the hurricane response plan last year, shelters in the volcano red zone would be unavailable for use by evacuees.
“We have already put in place in terms of what we will do and the measures we will take to protect persons going into shelters during this COVID time,” the CMO said.
“But we are very aware, and that is another drive for us right now, that to lock down this local spread that’s going on and finding who is out there, that we want to get this controlled so that in the eventuality that we do have need to put persons in shelters, we would decrease the risk,” Keizer-Beache said.
She was speaking about the local spread of the viral illness, which had infected 16 Vincentians without recent travel history between Dec. 28 and Tuesday, Jan. 5.
The number has since increased to 28.
“But even so, we already have put things in place where we would do testing, we would do screening, we would ensure that persons are kept within their family bubbles.
“And, as is with any time somebody is in a shelter, we have daily checks with our healthcare staff and we are working closely with NEMO (National Emergency Management Organisation) to ensure that if we have to move to shelters, we can manage it safely, even during COVID.