The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there is community transmission of COVID-19 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a term local health authorities have avoided using amidst a significant spike in cases among nationals.
Since Dec. 28, the country has recorded 359 cases among residents with no recent travel history, raising questions about the source of their infections.
The nation’s COVID-19 patients have ranged from ages 4 to 87 years old.
“Most cases are located on mainland, St. Vincent, with the highest numbers in the Pembroke Health District,” the National Emergency management Organisation (NEMO) said on Monday.
The Pembroke Health District stretches from Campden Park to Barrouallie and includes the Vermont Valley.
Health officials have been describing these cases as being “under investigation”.
Last Wednesday, as 204 such cases were “under investigation”, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache told a press conference that health authorities had identified five clusters, including in churches and workplaces.
She, however, said they had been unable to link some of the cases to any of those clusters.
The CMO further told the media that three persons who knew they had COVID-19 did not comply with the in-home isolation protocol of not interacting with persons from outside, or of not entertaining persons in their homes during their illness.
She further said that her ministry has evidence that some persons completed the five-day in-hotel quarantine, but later “went into the communities and might not have complied with the complete 14 days in the home”.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday, speaking at a separate press conference last Wednesday, noted that health authorities had not been describing the situation in the country as “community spread” — another term for community transmission.
“Now, the officials, they don’t want to use the term community spread. But if it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it is a duck!” Friday told the media.
“Whatever you call it, the fact of the matter is that we now have the vast majority of cases emanating from within the country, not coming in on the various planes that come from time to time,” the opposition leader further said.
Inability to link cases
WHO is now saying there is community transmission of COVID-19 in SVG.
Community transmission “is evidenced by the inability to relate confirmed cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases, or by increasing positive tests through sentinel samples (routine systematic testing of respiratory samples from established laboratories),” WHO says.
That is to say, a community transmission case is generally accepted as referring to an infected patient without any known contact with another confirmed case of viral infection or recent travel history to or from a country badly affected by a pandemic.
Therefore, the community transmission of a virus essentially implies that a virus is moving freely in the community.
A state of community spread implies that the virus is now circulating in the community and can infect people with no history of travel to or contact with affected people and areas.
At this stage, it is theoretically possible for everyone in a community or country to catch the infection.
Community transmission is especially worrisome for health officials because that means the virus is in the community but no one knows where it has come from or can track its origins.
This also suggests the virus is widespread in a community.
2 COVID-19 deaths, 494 cases
SVG has recorded 494 cases of COVID-19 and two of the patients have died, 118 have recovered and 374 remain active.
On Friday, SVG recorded its first COVID-19 death when Jestina Pompey, a 49-year-old woman who had pre-existing conditions, died.
Pompey presented to the hospital services on Thursday evening with difficulty breathing.
She was confirmed to be positive for COVID-19 on admission, rapidly deteriorated and died at 5 p.m. Friday, NEMO said.
The country recorded its second COVID-19 death on Monday.
An 80-year-old male who was admitted to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital on Friday, with complications of a chronic non-communicable disease, tested positive for COVID-19 during the routine screening conducted on all admissions.” “The patient who was managed on the COVID-19 Isolation Ward became unstable and died at 4:30 a.m. today, January 18, 2021,” NEMO said.