Despite the discovery of COVID-19 positive cases throughout Grenada with the number of active cases to date being 59, the Health Minister said the country is not experiencing a community spread of the virus according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“According to the scientific definition of community spread, the present situation cannot be classified as such. The majority of cases identified in the recent spike can be traced back to the cluster, in addition to a few other imported cases, detected through testing on day four of quarantine, subsequent to arrival here,” Hon Nickolas Steele said last Friday (Dec 18) in an address to the nation.
During a media briefing in April, Dr Francis Martin, in his capacity as Acting Chief Medical Officer, explained that Community Spread is “…a case that you find that has had no link at all to travel or no link to a known case that has travelled. Someone who has the virus and there is no explanation as to why that person has the virus.”
Hon Steele’s address followed last Sunday’s unearthing of a cluster of 26 cases at Sandals Grenada from random testing initiated by the resort. This was the largest spike identified here since Grenada’s first case in March. As of last Thursday, the number of positive cases from that cluster rose to 39, as reported by the Ministry of Health.
The Health Minister said “the existence of this cluster has necessitated a review of the “corridor” arrangement which is in place for three hotels, of which Sandals Grenada was one.”
He noted that “While it is instructive to note that the same operational guidelines applied to all three, there has been no indication of breaches at the other two properties. From the wealthiest to the
poorest visitor or national arriving in Grenada, everyone is required to have a negative PCR test. The only variation was their mode of transportation, be it private, first class or economy travel. In addition to the negative PCR test in the required timeframe, all were screened the same way on arrival, and placed either in quarantine or corridor facilities. There has been no instance of any person being granted permission to enter the country with a positive PCR test.”
Hon Steele reiterated, “We are seriously now reconsidering the “corridor” arrangement because clearly, any misstep in that process, any deviation from the recommended and agreed upon protocols, can jeopardise the health and safety of our own citizens and by extension their families and the communities at large.”
Nonetheless, Minister Steele said the key pillars of the ministry’s strategy is to continue testing before arrival, testing on day four of quarantine, a quarantine period of 14 days for those who have been exposed to a positive case and retesting of positive cases to determine medical clearance.
He said the sudden spike in positive COVID-19 cases has presented what is undisputedly one of
the most challenging periods for Government, since battling this pandemic.
The Minister reported that since the start of the pandemic in Grenada 18,000 PCR tests have been conducted, adding that government stands by the accuracy of these PCR tests, the results of
which are accepted regionally and internationally.
Noting that “No manual exists for combatting this crisis,” Steele said, “The fluidity of the pandemic means we are building local capacity as we respond. We are learning from the experiences of other
countries and through consultation with stakeholders, we are implementing the strategies
that are deemed most appropriate. Even so, today’s solution could very well be tomorrow’s problem; therefore, we need to maintain a level of agility to maneuver our way through this pandemic.”
He said, “Through constant review and evaluation, we acknowledge where there have been gaps in protocols and ascertain ways to continually strengthen the process of mitigating against any further outbreak of COVID-19.”
Minister Steele stressed however that critical to the success of that strategy is the level of public compliance with the recommended protocols. Noting there are scientifically proven methods that reduce an individual’s chances of contracting the disease, he said it is imperative that people continue to wear masks appropriately, cover both our nose and mouth, maintain the recommended social distance, sanitise frequently and avoid large gatherings.
Stating that to date over 1.6 million people worldwide have died due to COVID-19, referencing Grenada, Hon Steele said, “We have not yet experienced any COVID-related deaths here…but we must accept that this remains a very real possibility.”
Urging all to desist from spreading misinformation, as in the past week “this led to breakdowns in quarantine compliance; which, in turn, puts us all at further risk,” the Health Minister urged that “The sharing of timely, accurate and verified information [to] help to maintain public confidence.” He added that the Ministry of Health, through the Government Information Service (GIS) is always the official source of information.
The Health Minister urged the nation to “rest assured that the Ministry of Health will continue to strengthen its internal systems as we lead this ongoing fight against COVID-19. Our success depends on your compliance with the safety measures. For those in isolation or quarantine because of a positive test
or exposure to someone who tested positive, your compliance is even more critical. The virus moves with people, and it only moves when affected individuals move. If you have tested positive or have been exposed to the virus and you do not move from your yard space for the mandatory fourteen days or upon medical clearance, then there is no way you can infect others in the wider community.”