Grenada is hoping to test 300 persons by early next week for the deadly coronavirus, according to a high-level source close to the Keith Mitchell-led government.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the American-owned offshore medical school, St. George’s University (SGU) is playing a key role in testing through the use of a few machines that have just been installed on the island.
According to the source, the Chinese-operated company known as AliBaba, regarded as one of the world’ s biggest online commerce company, has made available a number of supplies to assist Grenada in its fight against the virus which is now affecting several Caribbean islands.
“We can now do our own test and by next week would test about 300 persons. AliBaba of China has sent thousands of masks and PPEs. We’ve even sourced test strips from Spain which will arrive by private (plane) early next week. We are moving supplies from Honduras to Nicaragua then flown by Venezuelan plane to Grenada,’ he said.
The source disclosed that SGU has put at the disposal of government the University Club in Lance Epines and a number of its dormitories for use by medical personnel involved in the fight against the coronavirus.
University Club, is formerly known as Horse Shoe Bay hotel and was once owned by government during the 1979-83 rule of the leftist People’s Revolutionary Government of late Prime Minister Maurice Bishop.
As part of its fight against the deadly virus, the Grenada government announced Monday that it had taken a decision to extend the 24-hour mandatory curfew until April 20.
Legal sources told THE NEW TODAY that the government has now exhausted the requirements as provided for under the constitution and that any additional extension of the curfew will have to be done by a sitting of Parliament.
Former NNP member and current Member of Parliament for St. George North-east, Tobias Clement has been expressing concerns over the failure of the Mitchell-led government to convene a sitting of Parliament in the past four months to give legality to a number of recent measures including the multi-million dollar economic and financial stimulus package unveiled in the face of COVID-19.
Under the new regulations for the limited State of Emergency, Grenadians have now been confined to their homes for 14 days.
The authorities have told them that the curfew would be lifted for a few hours on Saturday for them to engage in shopping for supplies.
According to National Co-ordinator for COVID-19, Dr. George Mitchell, the extension of the State of Emergency is a necessary measure for the authorities to better manage the virus status on the island.
“This period is to ensure we do all that we can to save lives, we have entered a crucial phase in terms of the spread of COVID in our country,” he said.
“We believe that if we take this measure that we are about to take or taking, it will give us a really, really good opportunity to see where we are in terms of ensuring and minimising community spread,” he added.
Grenada currently has 12 confirmed cases of the virus from 45 tests that were conducted.
Dr. George Mitchell told reporters that the time from incubation to displaying symptoms varies for the virus and based on the time that those who were tested positive were confirmed, this new 14 day period will be crucial to identifying new cases of people who were possibly exposed and whose exposure could result in community spreading of the virus.
“So, during that period we are also going to use the opportunity to do some testing,” he said.
According to the COVID-19 chief, the island intends to fully utilise its ability to now do its own testing and no longer send samples to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) laboratory in Trinidad and Tobago.
“I have been in contact with the folks at St George’s University who in collaboration with our lab techs at the hospital have done the run and reruns of those machines that will be used for testing – all the control have been done, so to speak and we are ready to go,” he said.
Previously, the samples had to be sent through the regional carrier LIAT which is now grounded or the Regional Security Services aircraft to CARPHA and it took at least 48 hours to return.
There are reports that the machines that came into Grenada to test for COVID-19, is part of a joint initiative involving Canadian Bank Note and the Grenada National Lottery Authority (GNLA) while the initial testing kits were donated by SGU.
The other collaborating agencies are the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the Windward Islands Research and Education Institute and CARPHA.