The Ministry of Health is awaiting results of five (5) samples sent to CARPHA in Trinidad & Tobago to undergo testing for the new strain of the Coronavirus, which has shown itself in neighboring islands in recent weeks.
According to medical doctor Myanna Charles who is the Assistant to the Acting Chief Medical Officer, Grenada has sent five samples to CARPHA to undergo testing “for the new variant and we are expecting to get those results back in two weeks.”
Dr. Charles made the disclosure in response to a question posed during Tuesday’s virtual Post-Cabinet media brief in St. George’s.
Pointing to the “significant risk to Grenada,” Dr. Charles said Grenadians need to be “more vigilant (now more than ever) because this new strain has (already) shown itself in neighbouring countries, St. Lucia and Trinidad in particular.”
Dr. Charles told reporters that a total of “19, 261 PCR tests have been conducted to date on the island with “11 persons in self isolation and 213 persons in quarantine facilities”
She shared the platform with Health Minister Nicholas Steele, who announced the deployment of an additional coast guard vessel to strengthen border control in Carriacou and Petite Martinique, in light of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the region, particularly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
He said that based on “information that’s shared with us, there are approximately 600 active cases right now in St. Vincent, Barbados (has) approximately 800 cases and in St. Lucia, approximately 400 (cases)”.
Minister Steele disclosed that “the coast guard had to stop individuals within the past week attempting to enter Grenadian waters without going directly to the designated ports of entry,” and acknowledged that “the reality is we are one Caribbean people, in particular, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines and even more so, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and the Southern Grenadine islands interact as one people.”
However, the minister said, while “we are proud of this, in this instance, where unfortunately we see our brothers and sisters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines being tried and tested by COVID-19, we have to take additional measures to control our borders and protect our people.”
“So, there are now two coast guard vessels between Carriacou and Petite Martinique (and) additional wardens have been placed on the ground in Petite Martinique and Carriacou and widespread testing is occurring now from the team in Carriacou as well as significant sensitising of the population through public service announcements and direct interaction.
“We recognise that there are individuals that make an income from that interaction from the islands and based on all of the reports that we have received there is a general compliance to follow and a recognition of the rules that are involved. So, we will keep you up dated and we ask any of you who are out there in Carriacou and Petite Martinique to continue to cooperate with us and those who are traveling back and forth to understand as best as possible the need to do this,” he added.
According to Minister Steele, “throughout our region and quite possibly because of the new strain that exists (it has been observed that) by the time a case is picked up that sneaked into your borders or that you may have missed through your border control, if you have significant social activity going on at that time chances are it is too late to control it at that point”.
Pointing to the contact tracing challenges presented in neighbouring islands as a result, the Health Minister noted that although measures have been taken to strengthen border control, weaknesses still exist in the system.
He said: “Our health system, its strengths and its weaknesses are no different from theirs and as such we need to recognise that right now the threat of Covid-19 to Grenada has never been greater from outside of Grenada…and what we are saying as a Ministry (is) that there are still weaknesses in our system as there are in every single system, in every single country in the world right now dealing with this pandemic.
“One thing that is happening is that the virus is getting stronger and stronger and taking on more and more victims, so this is why you will find for this week and or at least for the next two (2) weeks the curfew will remain, between 10 p.m. and 5 am,” he added.
The senior government minister told reporters that new rapid antigen community screening tests have been distributed to the various health centers across the island, as a measure to determine the local epidemiological status.
“The Ministry continues to aggressively test. We have brought in a new additional (rapid antigen) test recommended by the PAHO (for community screening), which is being distributed far and wide now and are being used in our community centers.
“…We have 10, 000 of those tests on island…and we are looking forward to getting all used as quickly as possible to give us a local epidemiological picture at present. And then once we get the results from that we would then do PCR test where necessary.
Grenada has recorded 148 confirmed COVID-19 cases and one death since the virus was first detected on its shores in March 2020.