The Tempe-based Caribbean Agro Industries (CAI) will remain closed until the local milling company can assure health officials that it is a safe working environment for employees.
This was the grim warning Saturday that was directed at the island’s sole flour and animal feed producing business by Health Minister Nicholas Steele who announced that another of its workers has tested positive for the coronavirus.
This brings to 21 the number of positive COVID-19 cases on the island and the fifth from that particular business place.
The CAI employee is in his early 20’s and was exposed to “Patient-15” – the first person from the company who fell ill to the virus.
Grenada is now leading the Windward Islands with coronavirus cases, followed by St Lucia (17), and Dominica and St. Vincent each with 16 cases as the virus continues to sweep through a number of countries around the world.
In an address to Grenadians, Minister Steele said that all the persons living in the household of Patient 21 has quarantined along with ”the other possible contacts of Case 15”.
“Fellow citizens, our present case is cause for concern for another reason. This is one of our youngest cases, so far,” he told the nation.
Minister Steele announced that all of the employees of the affected company and their contacts “have been tested, with most returning negative”.
However, he pointed out that “given the science of the disease, they continue to be monitored, based on their periods of possible exposure”.
The Health Minister disclosed that local health officials “are still working to determine the original point of contact for these (CAI) workplace cases”.
“…That company is still closed and must demonstrate adherence to safety measures before it is allowed to reopen. We will ensure that every business that opens up, or requests permission to open up, does so with observance to the strictest levels of health and safety protocols,” he said.
Speculation is rife that “Patient 15” might have been exposed to the virus on a vessel that had visited the St. George’s Port.
The forced closure of CAI has resulted in a shortage of feed on the island for poultry producers forcing them to bring in more expensive products from neighbouring Trinidad & Tobago.
According to Minister Steele, his ministry in collaboration with the Trade Unions on the island have worked out a protocol for business places wishing to open their doors to the public once again.
“We have developed guidelines for health and safety in the workplace, in consultation with unions, employers and other stakeholders. Each workplace must demonstrate that it will adhere to those guidelines, in order to receive permission to operate. While we are all anxious to resume further economic activities, we have repeatedly said that we will not do so at the expense of lives,’ he said.
Minister Steele went on: “Workplaces, especially enclosed spaces, are ideal places for the transmission of viruses. Therefore, we urge everyone to remember to keep your guard up in the workplace, just as you would in the outdoors. Exercise the same measures, such as frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizers, practice physical distancing of at least six feet and wear your masks, always. These measures, when combined have proven to drastically reduce the spread of the virus.
“We are not anywhere close to seeing the end of COVID-19; and as science and history have taught us, viruses come in waves and each one can be worse than the one before. We are in the first wave, and we must exercise caution at every turn,” he said.
Thirteen of the 21 COVID-19 cases discovered in Grenada have been declared “medically recovered” by Health officials who indicate that the island now has only seven active cases.
One of the positive cases slipped out of the island undetected over a month ago and boarded an Air Canada flight to Canada and then took another plane to fly to the United Kingdom where he is a permanent resident.