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Glaring weaknesses in Covid-19 protocols

Dr. Charles – admitted there were flaws but still confident about the safety measures

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic health officials are admitting that there are still gaps in the protocols that are aimed at keeping the country coronavirus free.

Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Shawn Charles confirmed on Monday that Grenada’s 25th case is a male in his early 30’s who ran away from a quarantine facility before he could receive his test results.

The man arrived in Grenada from Canada last week to attend a funeral and when health officials tried to locate him at the Ministry of Health approved quarantine facility to inform him of his positive test, he could not be found.

Health officials and police captured him in Tivoli on Sunday and he has since been placed in State-sponsored quarantine, along with a second person who left the private quarantine facility with him.

Several households that came in contact with Grenada latest COVID-19 case have been put under quarantine and contact tracing is continuing to find others whom the visitor may have exposed to the virus.

Dr. Charles told reporters in St George’s that the individual had “circumvented” the COVID-19 protocols but did not say just how the breach occurred.

“Of course when situations like this arises we have to pause and we have to examine and we have to wait and see how it evolves so that we do not create a situation where there is more risk for our population,” he remarked.

In a statement at the start of the news conference, Dr. Charles admitted this latest situation shows that there are gaps in the system but when asked if he is still confident in the system he said the problem is not with the protocols but with people breaking the rules.

“Those accommodations that provide quarantine accommodations, their security mechanism must be strengthened for them to be in a position to continue to accept people for quarantine,” he said.

There was also an incident where someone entered a quarantine facility and was injured while trying to escape during a search.

This is not the first time that an infected person has eluded health officials and put the country at risk for community spread of the novel coronavirus.

Another individual infected with the virus was able to get around the protocols and leave their designated place of quarantine with health authorities being clueless to their movements.

In April, an infected male was able to board a flight at the Maurice Bishop International Airport and leave the country and his disappearance became known only after the COVID-19 taskforce tried to locate him regarding his positive test result.

Dr. Charles downplayed the similarities between what occurred six months ago and the current situation.

People arriving in Grenada by air have the option of staying at Ministry of Health approved facilities but it is up to the owners and managers of these facilities to provide security and monitor those in quarantine.

Dr. Charles admitted that there have been many instances of people illegally leaving quarantine and despite this latest crisis he maintained that they are still confident in all the protocols in place.

Because of the government’s desperate need to reopen the tourism industry, Grenada’s quarantine period has been reduced to four days for certain countries considered medium risk while travellers arriving from countries within Caricom’s “safe bubble” are not required to quarantine as long as they present a negative test result.

Travellers arriving from Canada for instance are required to show a negative test result not more than a week old.

Health officials have no idea when case number 25 became infected, raising questions about the effectiveness of current travel and quarantine protocols.

Health Minister Nickolas Steele recently gave assurances that GPS watches were available to monitor those in quarantine however it turned out case number 25 was not outfitted with the watch and the devices have not yet been deployed, nor is there a set date for them to go into use.

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