The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is re-introducing the COVID-19 protocols that it announced on April 7, but which seemed to have fallen by the wayside with the explosive eruption of La Soufriere on April 9.
However, unlike before the eruption, students who have returned to the physical classroom now have to present a negative antigen test result, or be tested for the illness, once their parents consent.
Acting Prime Minister Montgomery Daniel did not say what would happen if students do not have a negative test result and their parents do not consent to the test.
Speaking on Friday, on Star FM, which is owned by the ruling Unity Labour Party, Daniel said that the health ministry attended Thursday’s cabinet meeting and expressed concern about the spread of COVID-19 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
He said that the government will be enforcing the protocols, which also clamp down on mass gatherings and demand face masks in public places as well as private places to which the public has access.
Among other things, the protocols call for unvaccinated teachers to present a negative COVID-19 test, or be denied entry to the school compounds.
Further, those teachers who are unvaccinated and present a negative test will be tested up to once every two weeks.
He said that the testing of teachers and students will be done “on a two week basis, by and large.
“Of course, you may well find that some students may not be tested more than once per month. But it is very, very much important that the testing be done if the vaccination is not in place.”
The acting prime minister said it was “real stunning” hearing that SVG had gone past the 2,000 COVID-19 cases mark, adding that health officials said that 64% of transmissions occur in homes.
“And, of course, as the report yesterday (Thursday) stated, there were 11 new cases on that day and there were some 163 active cases presently in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Therefore, with this spiral increase with these numbers, the Ministry of Health is very much concerned with the spiralling of the disease, and so, in terms of their concern, to ask of Cabinet for its wisdom in assisting with the level of control of COVID-19,” Daniel said.
According to government statistics, on Saturday, 13 new COVID-19 cases brought to 2,027 the total number of cases of the virus confirmed in SVG since March 2020.
The country has recorded 12 COVID-19 deaths while 1,831 people have recovered from the illness and 184 cases remain active.
Protocols ‘basically went out of the window’ after eruption
Daniel said that health officials appealed to the Cabinet that it is time “to have the protocols that were established; that it is time for these protocols to be re-established”.
He said that the “improved protocol” of April 7 had anticipated the reopening of schools on April 12
“And so, these protocols basically went out of the window,” he said, adding that Cabinet, having heard health officials’ proposals last week, again approved the protocols.
He said that in light of the return to the physical classroom by some students, the Ministry of Health is demanding that students present their antigen test results.
And, where this is not possible, students will be tested with the consent of parents.
Daniel said that this has already started in some schools as a teacher and a student at one institution tested positive for COVID-19.
“And so, in terms of the contact tracing, and so on, they had to do a lot of testing of the children within that school compound,’ Daniel said.
“So that it is critical that testing be done with the children but it will be done with the written consent of the parents.”
The acting prime minister said that the “troublesome one” that the ministry presented was mass gatherings.
“And the observation by the Ministry of Health is that there is a continuous neglect of social distancing. People are just going out and having [a] nice time and commingling and bundling and wanting to enjoy themselves.”
He said that the mass gathering protocols will be enforced.
The protocols ban indoor dining at restaurants, limit indoor gatherings to 15 people, and outdoor gatherings to 20.
“… on public transportation, the protocols would be maintained, and then you have, in terms of churches, they are still down to their capacity of one-third. In terms of parties and funerals and weddings, of course, they are expected to maintain the protocols as required,” Daniel said.
Vehicles providing amplified music
He said that health officials were especially concerned about the non-adherence to the ban on amplified music.
Daniel said that the Cabinet heard that vehicles with powerful sound systems were being used to provide amplified music “particularly in certain hotspot”, including beaches.
“… these portable music sets are attracting a number of individuals and creating this kind of situation,” he said, adding that the meeting discussed extensively activities in Bottle and Glass, Barrouallie, in the area where pilot whales [“Black fish”] are processed.
“… you have a number of gatherings and it is being identified that even some of the individuals who are supposed to be protecting the law are part and parcel of those gatherings.”
Daniel said that the police high command was called to the Cabinet discussions to ensure that they understand the importance of their role in enforcing the protocols.
“And that’s why I am saying to you that as of this weekend, the police is being asked to increase in terms of their methods of control, in terms of the reduction of COVID-19 so that whether it is amplified music or not, where there are large gatherings that they cannot be less than the six feet as required by the protocols.”
He said that Cabinet mandated the Attorney General to meet with the police as soon as possible to ensure that they understand the relevant COVID-19 laws and how they are to be applied.
“And so, if there has been somewhat a lapse in the knowledge of the officer executing their duty, well, the Cabinet has taken the decision to have the Attorney General’s chambers to have a meeting as urgently as possible to enlighten the police officers in the execution of their work as to what are the laws and SR&Os in relation to St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Daniel said.