WITH 37 cases of COVID-19 registered in Saint Lucia as of press time yesterday, health authorities have gone into full battle mode to combat and sustain the virus which has now thrown Saint Lucians into a state of anxiety.
The last weekend was indeed one for alarm as the Ministry of Health and Wellness announced four cases that rocketed the total number to 36 and ignited an undertaking by the authorities that will not end anytime soon. The 37th case was announced yesterday afternoon by the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sharon Belmar-George.
“Given the professions of these cases and the social activities which they undertake, a wide contact tracing and testing intervention is being undertaken. This included community based testing at a number of sites, allowing for testing of a large number of people in a short space of time,” the Ministry informed in a statement Monday.
The Ministry acknowledged that between October 10 and October 19, 2020 over 1,200 tests were conducted in response to contact tracing efforts.
“These cases were from varying communities but the Ministry’s contact tracing team was able to establish a common link of all the cases to the Aux Lyon community on the east coast of Saint Lucia. During this past week, targeted testing was undertaken in communities of immediate concern at Aux Lyon, Dennery with a total of 167 people being tested. In Desruisseax, Micoud, 15 people were tested and for the relevant staff and students of the Castries Comprehensive School 182 people were tested,” The Ministry announced.
This week contact tracing will be continuing as well as community-based testing, which is one of the strategies for identifying other cases which may exist in community, according to the Ministry of Health which says it is pleased with the support provided by the various organizations and community leaders and gatekeepers in mobilizing residents to participate in the testing efforts.
“This partnership has had tremendous value for the public health response to the newly diagnosed cases,” the Ministry said.
The Ministry meanwhile says it has issued no directive to employers of relatives and friends of children who attend the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School that they should remain at home away from work.
“Employers of these individuals are asked to take special note that this is required for any employee affiliated with the school,” the Ministry noted.
The school is now closed for two weeks on account of two persons there, a student and an employee, having been tested positive for COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health is further asking that while school is suspended children should remain at home.
“This period should not be seen as an opportunity for gathering together and socializing face-to-face whether in public or privately as we continue to implement strategies to prevent the risk of spreading the virus. The general public is reminded that though the Ministry of Health has been able to establish a link among cases number 29 to 36, it is possible that there may be community transmission of COVID19. As such, we all need to remain on high alert and ensure that throughout each day all the necessary measures are undertaken to reduce the risk of being exposed to COVID-19,” noted the Ministry.
The Ministry is of the view that all necessary measures to contain COVID-19 can be undertaken by each Saint Lucian simply following the guidelines for preventing the spread of the infection which include consistently using face masks in public places, keeping a safe physical distance from others, washing or sanitizing hands frequently particularly throughout the day and to promptly seek care at the closest Respiratory Clinic if experiencing respiratory signs and symptoms.
All schools, other than the Castries Comprehensive School, have been suspended for this week during which the Ministry of Health will continue with its contact tracing as well as testing. There will also be deep-cleaning and sanitizing of all schools, a process which under the protocols for schools takes place weekly, in addition to the daily cleaning of schools.
Since then, testing has been conducted for students and staff at the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School and as of Monday October 19, all teachers and ancillary staff have been tested.