Health Minister Nickolas Steele has sought to calm fears among Grenadians as the country announced its first COVID-19 case.
Speaking to reporters at a hurriedly called press conference last Sunday, the minister appealed to people on the island to engage in more “social distancing” to help protect the island in the face of the deadly virus.
Grenada’s first positive COVID-19 diagnosis was an imported case from the United Kingdom, a woman, who arrived on island on March 16.
According to Minister Steele, officials from the Ministry of Health “are now aggressively conducting contact tracing”.
“I can assure you that our very capable medical team has been actively following up on and engaging in contact tracing (and) we are already moving to isolate and monitor several other individuals who were in close contact with the patient. This will continue for the next 14 days at minimum,” he said.
THE NEW TODAY understand that the COVID-19 patient travelled to the island from the UK to attend the funeral in River Sallee of the son of an individual who was convicted for the murder of revolutionary Prime Minister Maurice Bishop in 1983.
The Health Minister told reporters that the ruling New National Party (NNP) government has been “working assiduously to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 onto our shores.”
He said the ministry has been engaged in several efforts in recent weeks and months to try and “delay any possible introduction (of the coronavirus to the island) and to “give us time, precious time, to prepare (and to) plan and to be able to deal with…its inevitable introduction.”
He stated that now the island has its first COVID-19 case this now “brings us to a new phase of making sure that this deadly disease does not spread.
“It’s here, we have the confirmation (and) I implore you that we need to maintain social distancing,” he warned.
Minister Steele disclosed that “the Ministry of Health and the government in conjunction with the police … will be taking the necessary actions moving forward, to ensure as best as possible that social distancing is maintained by all who are here in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.”
THE NEW TODAY understands that several members of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) attended the St. Patrick funeral along with the COVID-19 patient.
In an apparent threat to Grenadians, the senior government minister indicated that the Sanitary Authority, Minister of Health , Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Francis Martin and the National COVID-19 Co-ordinator, Dr. George Mitchell have powers to take certain action and that “we intend to exercise (the powers) to the fullest wherever necessary, to protect our citizens of Grenada”.
Dr. Martin who also addressed the emergency press conference pointed to “numerous reports that there are families seen congregating and still having sessions” and not adhering to the plea for social distancing and “strongly” advised against it.
“I am strongly advising against social gatherings,” said Dr. Martin who added that he was told that “guys meet up at the bars, sometimes under tents and by the Bar-be-que stands and just having fun.”
“These are not simple times,” said Dr Martin who warned of the possibility of the spread of the deadly virus through “community transmission”.
“…As a nation we must understand…community transmission must be stopped at all cost. I want to remind you that the World Health Organisation (WHO), through their epidemiological studies has shown that on average one symptomatic person can pass this on to 2.6 persons and if there is about ten generations of passing it on to persons, over a period of five to six days, countries can see up to 3, 500 persons (with the virus) and these are very, very frightening numbers”, he added.
“I implore on all our citizens…this is a time, if your see someone behaving in a reckless manner that can spread this virus, I recommend that you speak to them and help us in this process. We hope the legal arm will help us with that problem,” he said.
Dr. Martin went on: “Our COVID-19 Coordinator Dr. George Mitchell will continue to lead the fight and the activities going forward but it’s only so much he can do…we as a nation have a responsibility to stop community transmission virus at this point.”
Dr. Mitchell, who also addressed the press briefing encouraged persons to call the COVID-19 hotline if they feel there are experiencing symptoms of the virus.
“We will have our folks interview and check you (as) this is the protocol that we will be following and we expect that together with the folks at the St. George’s University (SGU) we will do this as thoroughly as humanely possible,” he said.