Bridgetown, Barbados, January 13, 2021 (PAHO/WHO) – A year since the world was warned about the outbreak of a new corona virus (COVID-19), close to 91 million cases have been reported and nearly 2 million deaths globally. In the past 3 – 4 weeks, countries in the Eastern Caribbean are now experiencing a second wave and second peaks of the outbreak.
PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Countries, Dr Yitades Gebre, in a virtual press conference hosted by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on the COVID-19 pandemic said, “Our support to the countries has been primarily focused on three areas, to save lives, protect health workers and stop the spread of the virus.”
PAHO and WHO have developed and shared with countries a comprehensive package on general guidance on surveillance, lab testing, infection prevention and control, a readiness checklist, and risk communication and community engagement.
The COVID-19 outbreaks over the previous weeks were related to people attending crowded settings, engaging in confined space with limited physical distancing and not wearing masks in public spaces. In some instance the cluster of cases occurred in institutional settings.
The current intensity of transmission and response capacity of the health system in Saint Vincent and other countries require for adjustment of the public health and social measures tailored to the local context and stepping up contact tracing of cases for targeted control. Dr Gebre informed “Before new changes in public health measures are made, communities must also be fully consulted and engaged, considering the effects these measures may have on the general welfare of society and individuals.”
He stated “We are in a very dangerous time in the course of the pandemic and we do not want to see people become complacent as vaccines are starting to rollout.”
“We reiterate that local communities, and visitors to Saint Vincent and Grenadines to exercise safe COVID-19 personal protective measures (such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, mask wearing); environmental measures (such as cleaning, disinfection, ventilation),” he said.
In addition to grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, St Vincent and the Grenadines is faced with two additional challenges, the La Soufriere volcanic activity and dengue outbreak.
On the matter of the La Soufriere volcanic activity, Dr Gebre informed on the importance of providing essential technical-scientific information on the volcanic threat, and risk management in the current situation coupled with COVID-19. He assured that PAHO will support this effort with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and other regional entities.
He said “We will work with all parties to identify and share the volcanic risk factors that affect health; improve preparedness and response, and support to strengthen epidemiological surveillance in the face of volcanic risk.”
PAHO/WHO Advisor on Health Systems and Services, Dr Rufus Ewing, in addition to proving a comprehensive overview of PAHO’s technical and financial support to the country since the start of the pandemic, reported on the dengue support provided to St Vincent and the Grenadines. He said support was provided in:
- Capacity building for testing by providing laboratory reagents for dengue testing and serotyping, and training of laboratory staff;
- Procurement of a dialysis machine to increase capacity for the management of severe cases of dengue; and
- Development of risk communication messages to reduce transmission of both COVID-19 and Dengue
- Procurement of insecticides, insecticide application equipment and entomological supplies to strengthen their vector control programmes.
PAHO has committed funding in the amount of United States $489,886 to St Vincent and the Grenadines since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the form of essential equipment and supplies and technical support.