Five COVID-19 cases have been confirmed at an emergency shelter in Stubbs, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves confirmed on radio on Tuesday.
He said that shelter occupants were refusing to take COVID-19 tests despite confirmed and suspected cases, including a woman who collapsed and died last week, but was later found to be COVID-19 negative.
Gonsalves, speaking on NBC Radio, noted that SVG has recorded its 11th COVID-19 death.
“This is an elderly gentleman who was in the isolation centre – 87 years old. And, of course, he had certain severe comorbidities, certain pre-existing conditions,” the prime minister said.
“Ad that reminds us that COVID, though it is not an almost automatic death sentence, like, for instance, Ebola and HIV and AIDS in the earlier period before they got the requisite medication to help to make persons with HIV and AIDS live a long time, but it can kill.’
He said that even if COVID-19 does not result in death, long COVID can affect the heart, lungs, accelerate diabetes “and can create difficulties even in relation to cancer of the mammaries, I have been so advised. So that we have to be careful with it.”
He said that long before St. Vincent and the Grenadines obtained COVID-19 vaccine, his government was repeatedly making the point that to address COVID properly, there has to be early identification, testing, contact tracing, quarantine or isolation.
He said that the government has tested about 45,000 persons, including people who have come into the country.
“There are persons in shelters who are refusing to be tested. I say to you, this is something dangerous, your refusal is dangerous to your health, to that of the community. I am not getting yet to vaccination. I am talking about testing.”
He said that half of the people who have COVID do not have symptoms.
“So I am urging everybody to get tested and especially in the shelters. I was amazed to find out that there is someone who was doing a karaoke who has some pre-existing condition, danced and fell and died.
“Persons said that it was COVID but it was not COVID. The person did not die of COVID because the PCR test showed that the person didn’t have COVID. But even while that rumour swirled and people in the particular shelter where this person died, it was amazing that people were there refusing to take the test. I am not talking yet about vaccination.
“We have seen at Stubbs, two days ago, there are five persons at the shelter tested positive. Four person in the shelter and one who is not at the shelter all the time, who goes and comes, given his own duties.”
He said that the country has been fortunate and the Ministry of Health has been doing good work to help to contain this matter.
Gonsalves, however, said that as was seen last Christmas, it is easy for a few persons, including those who are asymptomatic who have COVID “to spread it like wildfire”.
“There was a big spike and we had to take certain measures to clamp it down and we successfully did that,” the prime minister said.
“Now, I can’t see the reason that you don’t want to be tested. It is important for your health, for persons who are interacting with you, and for persons who are with you in the shelters, or those who are crowded in homes, particularly in those homes where individuals are now — you have more person in the family house than usual because people have generously taken in family, friends, and even strangers. So, please test,” Gonsalves said.