CHANGES will be coming to the current set of COVID-19 protocols, which could be as early as this week, as Saint Lucia, over the past two weeks, continues to see rising cases of the virus, a situation that is causing much concern amongst health practitioners, government officials and some members of the public.
Warning of the pending changes to the protocols was the Ministry of Health, which today has become the most vociferous of voices calling on Saint Lucians to heed the protocols, get vaccinated and prepare themselves against the virus and its several variants.
Also speaking of changes to the COVID-19 protocols was the new Health Minister, Moses Jn Baptiste, who, at a post-Cabinet meeting said measures will be put in place to help slow down the spread of COVID-19.
Jn Baptiste also said that government will not go the route of mandatory vaccination, but rather undertake a robust education campaign to encourage persons to get tested and vaccinated. He said strategies to incentivize people to get vaccinated will be employed.
Meanwhile Health officials say they are expecting the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus to hit Saint Lucia anytime soon, and have warned Saint Lucians to protect themselves against it by getting vaccinated.
But Saint Lucians seem not to be taking heed of the authorities urgent call to get vaccinated as the numbers expected to come in for the jab have been below the expectations of health personnel, to the point where personnel from the Ministry of Health and individual health practitioners are earnestly calling on Saint Lucians, even teenagers, to get vaccinated.
“As we continue to note an increase in COVID-19 cases and prepare for the introduction of the Delta variant, the health authorities encourages individuals 18 years and older to get vaccinated, noted the Ministry last Sunday.
According to the Ministry, the Delta variant has been identified in 11 Caribbean countries thus far. It makes up over 90% of cases in the UK, over 80% of cases in the US and France. The transmissibility is increased to over 97% as compared to the regular strain. The Delta Variant is characterized for more severe diseases, complications, hospitalizations and deaths. Preliminary evidence shows twice the rate of hospitalizations for unvaccinated persons and over 1000 times the viral load. Vaccines are still effective against the Delta Variant (about 75%) in controlling disease, transmission, reducing hospitalizations, severe disease and deaths.
Saint Lucia borders are now open to the world and although the authorities lay claim to having the seaports and airports and marinas under strict COVID-19 protocols, the same cannot be said for in country population from which more and more COVID-19 cases are being recorded.
Not even an appeal by the Ministry of Health to the public to protect themselves and others by limiting social activities and practicing the infection prevention and control measures seems to be heeded.
Saint Lucia recorded positive cases of the virus each day last week, recording 58 such cases on the first day of this week with 66 recorded the day before and 76 on Monday.
With close to 6000 cases of the virus staring Saint Lucia in the face, the fear is that Saint Lucia may not be prepared for this spike in COVID-19 numbers because should this spike continue it will surely pose a demand on the healthcare resources, especially the respiratory hospital, nurses, health workers and those from various organizations.
“In an effort to control the spread of the virus in Saint Lucia, we continue to encourage people with respiratory signs and symptoms to avoid crowds and to access care at any of the five Community Respiratory Clinics,” stated the Ministry.
To date the number of active cases have climbed exponentially from low double digits to treble digits – 350 cases in isolation, prior to press time yesterday, with two new COVID-19 deaths, bringing to date the total number of COVID-19 deaths in country to 92.
The health authorities have informed that two doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine must be taken in order for someone to be fully vaccinated while at the same time acknowledging a spike in COVID-19 cases in country, saying such a spike was anticipated given the increase in social activities over the past weeks.
“At this time, the public is reminded to remain vigilant and to take all the necessary precautionary measures to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We encourage individuals with respiratory signs and symptoms to access care at any of the five Community Respiratory Clinics. These include the Vieux-Fort Wellness Center, Dennery Hospital, Soufriere Hospital, La Clery Wellness Center and the Gros-Islet Polyclinic,” stated the Department of Health, reiterating that vaccines are the most effective public health measure in managing infectious diseases.
“Therefore, we encourage individuals to get vaccinated and be protected from the severe forms, complications, hospitalizations and death from COVID-19,”noted the Ministry, which called on Saint Lucians to take personal responsibility and protect themselves by washing hands regularly, wearing a mask in public places covering the mouth, nose and chin, maintaining a distancing from others and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces using a bleach solution.
The Ministry of Health maintains that vaccination remains the most effective public health measure in managing the virus and that the Astra Zeneca vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective in protecting persons from developing COVID-19, its severe forms, complications, hospitalizations and deaths.