An employee at a business in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is raising questions about why the firm is being allowed to continue to operate “as normal” although several COVID-19 cases have been detected there over the past few weeks.
The employee, who asked for anonymity so as to speak freely on the issue without repercussion, told iWitness News that the situation at the business, which employs hundreds of people in a multi-storey building, began emerging on Sept. 8, when the country began seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
“I think the public needs to know about this because I think it is unfair that they have us working like COVID is non-existent and we have families at home. We can afford to work at home. Why not just let us work at home,” the employee told iWitness News.
The staff at the company had been working from home for some time because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, some time after they returned to the workplace, one person tested positive and then other COVID-19 cases began to emerge.
She said that the employees sit in rows of between 10 and 15 persons. And, recently, in one row, at least five persons were absent because of COVID-19. “And that’s just one row,” the employee emphasised.
“The production floor is currently scanty because everyday people are leaving early, complaining of feeling unwell. There are people on sick leave going into three weeks now, all because of COVID-19.”
On Friday, staff members learned that two more of their colleagues tested positive for the virus.
“One tested positive first and because of how closely she sits to the other persons, that person went to get tested and tested positive.”
The worker told iWitness News that at full capacity, up to 300 persons work in the building, and, because of the nature of their work and the arrangements, commingle from time to time.
“Up to this very point, we are in the dark. They have said nothing to us. Everything we know is because people have started talking — the employees are talking.
“About 15 to 20 persons have tested positive for COVID-19 but the numbers are hard to track,” the employee said, adding, “Each week, it is a different figure because you never know who is coming and who is going.”
The source said that the Ministry of Health tested 100 volunteers at the establishment on Sept. 24 and 27.
The source said that people are still testing positive and the business is operating, except that fewer people are available to work.
“The only measure that I have seen is that they have mounted an infrared thermometer on the wall. You have to check your temperature when you are entering and you have to sanitise. However, what if someone comes and their temperature is through the roof, what is going to happen? Who is there to say what is next, because it is just the security guard on the ground floor.”
The staff member said they were not sure whether the thermometer sends the body temperature readings to anyone.
Many of the workers are paid by the hour, therefore, someone who might have a high temperature might be tempted to work although they have an above-normal temperature, the employee said.
The source told iWitness News that the staff is supposed to wear face masks.
“But who is enforcing it? I don’t think anybody is enforcing it because there would be persons outside, no masks, no face shield either, in each other’s faces, carrying on. They would be in the lunchroom talking like COVID is non-existent.”
The employee said that COVID-19 vaccination is not a requirement for employment at the entity but added that they had no idea what portion of the staff is vaccinated.
She said that the number of employees who have tested positive is having a negative impact on the staff.
“It has increased our workload because if someone is out, then their work has to be reassigned to someone else,” the employee told iWitness News.