With the island nearing the 4000 mark for diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and registering a shocking 45 related deaths, the vaccination programme currently on could very well be a major factor in halting the virus’ advance across the land.
But more vaccines will be needed and more are on the way as stated by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), which will be procuring and delivering 357,000 to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean as allocated by the COVAX Facility.
A total of 74,000 doses will be allocated to Saint Lucia from the COVAX Facility to take care of about 20 percent of the population, a package which should be arriving in a matter of weeks, if schedules are maintained.
However thanks to the generosity and munificence of India, which gave Saint Lucia 28,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines, a start has been made to deliver a knock-out blow to COVID-19.
This week political leaders, church leaders, civil society leaders, media personnel and others who hold sway in the land received their first jab of the AstraZeneca, which requires two jabs before one could claim to be truly ‘safe’ from the virus.
But not even the smooth roll out of the vaccination programme could stop the still horrifying news coming out of the Respiratory Hospital.
Almost on a daily basis reports of more cases are being aired. While it is hoped that the situation steadies itself this weekend and in the coming days, prior to press time yesterday 11 new cases were still being confirmed after they were registered Thursday, bringing the number of cases diagnosed in country to date to 3814.
The individuals were seen at various community respiratory clinics where they were assessed and tested for COVID-19 and in keeping with the national COVID-19 testing protocol, healthcare practitioners placed each of these individuals in home quarantine while awaiting the return of their test results. Arrangements have been made to place them into isolation and contact tracing for these new cases are underway.
Sadly on Monday of this week the island recorded one COVID-19 related death bringing the total number of deaths to 38 all that changed when three days later the Ministry of Health reported five COVID-19 related deaths bringing the total number of deaths in country to date to 43.
Death #39 is a 79 year old male from the Castries district. Death #40 is an 89 year old female from the Castries district. Death #41 is a 68 year old male from the Soufriere district. Death #42 is a 47 year old male from the Vieux-Fort district. Death #43 is a 69 year old male from the Canaries district. All of these individuals had underlying medical illnesses and were in care at the time of their passing, according to the Ministry.
Meanwhile the backlog of COVID-19 samples that needed testing at the Ezra Long Laboratory has been cleared, prompting Prime Minister Allen Chastanet to acknowledge the feat, stating that this comes at a time when the Government of Saint Lucia has also expanded testing capacity by bringing on the Forensic Lab to do PCR testing and private labs for Antigen testing.
This means that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has now returned to the original capacity of a 24-hour turnaround time for COVID-19 PCR testing.
According to the prime minister the enhancement of the Lab’s capacity is due to significant investment in human resource, new biomedical equipment, more reagents together with improved workstations and the upgrading of software, which the Ministry of Health says will facilitate efficient execution of services.
It has been revealed that the laboratory can now process between 762-1125 samples daily, with a 24-hour turnaround which will significantly bolster Saint Lucia’s response to COVID-19.
“The Ministry of Health and Wellness has been at the forefront of the management of COVID-19 and I want to commend them for their continued persistence and refinement of processes,” said Prime Minister Chastanet. “This improvement in testing augurs well for the country and the overall fight against COVID-19 and though we are not out the woods, Saint Lucia is stronger than ever to continue to manage the pandemic.”