Grenada is planning to significantly ramp up COVID-19 testing to the point of conducting about 800 rapid tests within a one or two weeks period for the virus, according to National COVID-19 Co-ordinator, Dr. George Mitchell.
Speaking at a government press briefing Saturday, Dr. Mitchell said the plan is to target workers at gas stations, pharmacies, medical stations and at farmers’ markets to try and determine whether there is any virus presence among the work force.
He told reporters that the testing will extend to Nursing homes out of the recognition that this is one place that is susceptible to the virus especially among the elderly in the society.
Grenada is said to have conducted 116 PCR tests and 82 Rapid Tests since the outbreak of the coronavirus on the island.
Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Francis Martin who also appeared at the press briefing announced that some Police Officers and Health Care Workers have been tested for COVID-19.
He also said that PCR tests kits have been distributed to some doctors in private practice for them to test their own patients as part of the fight in Grenada against the virus.
According to Dr. Martin, the 6 remaining COVID-19 patients on the island are stable and that only one patient is currently housed at the state-operated COVID-19 facility.
“We only one have one patient at our COVID Centre at the hospital. One was released this morning (Saturday),” he said.
Guyana-born Attorney-General Darshan who was invited to address the press outlined a number of measures being taken by the Keith Mitchell-led government in the coming days to ease restrictions and to put more people back to work.
He said that although the government passed legislation in Parliament Friday to extend the State of Emergency for another six months it is not the intention of the administration to lockdown the country for that entire period but only to give it legislative power to do so if it became necessary.
The Attorney-General pointed out that government was bent on re-opening the country in the shortest possible time.
“We are heading for a re-opening of Grenada and a return to a state of normalcy”, he remarked.
Against this backdrop, AG Ramdhani said that Grenadians will have three days instead of two for shopping at supermarkets and village shops with the designated days being Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
He announced that bakeries, banks, remittance services, the offices of private doctors, health services, gas stations, essential commercial entities, accountants, veterinarians, hardware stores, insurance companies and restaurants will also be allowed to do business on those three days.
However, the government’s chief legal advisor said that restaurants and fast food outlets will only be allowed to engage in pick-up service or drive through during the hours of 8.00 a.m to 5.00 p.m
AG Ramdhani told reporters that like in the past, the days set aside for shopping by the public will be controlled with no public buses allowed on the nation’s road network.
However, he said that private vehicles will be allowed on the road but with only one person sitting in a row in a staggered position.
During the press briefing, Dr. Martin denied reports circulating in some quarters that several persons who had complained of having symptoms of the coronavirus were denied access to medical treatment and tests.
This, he said is highly unlikely as health professionals who are doing the tests often go into the homes of people to carry out the tests.
He also said that the position of the COVID-19 team is that persons who had previously treated for the virus will continue to be monitored and tested periodically to make sure that they remain COVID-19 free.
Health Minister Nicholas Steele used the press briefing to paint a glowing picture of the success by the Mitchell-led government in the fight against the deadly virus.
He told reporters that there was “a significant amount of success” as all recent tests conducted returned negative and that only 6 of the 14 positive cases identified on the island are still infected with the virus but these persons are “stable”.
According to Minister Steele, there have been no deaths among virus patients on the island as in some countries and that seven of the affected persons can now be categorised as “medically cleared” of having the disease.
He said that the next week can be considered as crucial for the island and that if no cases pop up from tests conducted then Grenadians will see a relaxation in the measures taken by government to lockdown the country through the State of Emergency now in force.
He stated that the intention of the government is to move to the next stage of seeing “restrictive measures” on the population eased up considerable in order to get the economy up and moving once again.
Minister Steele told reporters that the 24-hour curfew will be enforced until government can determine that the island has reached a ‘safe period’ and then there will be an incremental easing of restrictions of the measures.
The senior government minister did not address the controversial issue of the approach made by American Airlines (AA) to resume service at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) on May 7 as part of the opening up of Grenada to the outside world.
In the face of public outcry against the move following a report carried by THE NEW TODAY that AA was advertising flights for the next three weeks, the Ministry of Tourism & Civil Aviation, headed by senior government minister, Dr Clarice Modeste-Curwen eventually acknowledged that the airline had put forward a proposal but did not say whether the government had turned down the request from the major U.S carrier.
The statement said in part: “The Ministry can confirm that a request was received from American Airlines to resume service to Grenada on May 7, 2020, if the restrictions imposed as a result of the State of Emergency are lifted. While the correspondence was acknowledged by the relevant authorities, there was no approval of the request because quite frankly, any deliberation on the resumption of incoming passenger traffic, is premature at this point.
“…The Ministry assures the population that no approval has been granted for the operation of any passenger flight, from any origin, for any date in the near future. The re-opening of Grenada’s borders will be done only after broad-based consultation and on the advice of medical experts. Any announcement of this will come from an official Government source,’” it added.
American Airlines was still advertising the flight to MBIA up to late Saturday night.
The National COVID-19 Co-ordinator Dr. Mitchell was asked to comment on the status of the individual who tested positive for the virus in Grenada about a month ago and slipped out of the island undetected to return to his place of residence in the United Kingdom.
Dr. Mitchell said that he was not sure what is happening with the individual but Health Minister Steele did not rule out the possibility of action being taken against the person as he had violated the island’s Quarantine regulations which is punishable under the law.