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The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in St. Vincent and the Grenadines deepened this week, with 156 construction workers from Mustique being sent back here to mainland St. Vincent amidst an outbreak of cases on that Grenadine island, renowned as a playground of the world’s rich and famous.

None of the workers were willing to speak to iWitness News about the impact that the suspension of construction in Mustique is likely to have on their finances.

However, iWitness News was reliably informed that the Mustique Company, which manages the island, decided to suspend all construction work, after 18 workers tested positive last week.

iWitness News understands that after the suspension of construction, the workers were told to take all their belongings with them, as the company was unsure of when construction would resume.

The development comes amidst a surge in cases, which has resulted in the number of active cases in St. Vincent and the Grenadines rising to 860 as of Friday, Sept. 24  — up from 27 one month earlier.

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Five people have died of COVID-19 since Sept. 9, taking the total to 17, up from 12 in May, when the previous last death had been recorded. 

Additionally, 20 COVID-19 patients are hospitalised at the Argyle Isolation facility, while a further 11 are warded at the Milton Cato Memorial hospital. 

Health officials say that of the 31 patients, one is fully vaccinated, one is partially vaccinated, and the status of a third patient is unknown.

At a press conference on Thursday, health officials detailed the number of cases per health district, but did not comment on the communities that have significant clusters.

However, Member of Parliament for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre, an opposition lawmaker, this week, expressed concerns about the number of cases in Canouan and Union island, located in his constituency.

Ollivierre said that the situation was at crisis level.

Sources in the know tell iWitness News that 73 cases have been diagnosed in Canouan, which has a population of about 2,500 people, while in Union island, where there are 3,000 residents, the number was 12.

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as with the rest of the region, continues to struggle with low vaccination levels.

Three vaccines — AstraZeneca, Sputnik V, and Pfizer — are available in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, all free of charge.

As of Friday, Sept. 24, 20,165 first doses have been administered and 13,251 persons had taken a second jab.

The vaccination effort may not be helped by the revelation that  31 fully vaccinated people locally have tested positive for the virus…

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Roger Duncan summarised the benefits of vaccination:

Two weeks before students were expected to return to the physical classroom for the first time since December 2020, the health ministry has revealed that one out of every five cases in the week ended Sept 21, was a person under age 18.

Duncan said that health officials are discussing their advice to the government on the reopening of school.

Amidst the misinformation and disinformation that the government has been struggling to contain, one of its advisors, Dr. Jerrol Thompson, an infectious disease specialist and former science and technology minister said the anti-vaccination protest in Kingstown on Sept. 9 was a super-spreader event.

However, Dr. Duncan told the media on Thursday that his ministry has not identified any super-spreader event in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Earlier this week, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves warned Vincentians that as the pandemic wears on, inflation will rise, resulting in higher costs of commodities and shipping. 

Some consumers say that the minister spoke in the wrong tense, adding that these increases have already been seen for months…

These vendors in Kingstown say they are already feeling the squeeze.

And, as the second year of the pandemic drags on, that, undoubtedly, is the question on the minds of many Vincentians: “How long will this last?”