Sandals Grenada has been ordered to evacuate all guests as Health officials in Grenada grapple with the country’s worst COVID-19 crisis since March.
It was confirmed Sunday during a press conference that a cluster of 26 cases have been identified at the resort resulting in the number of cases on the island increasing to 71.
Health Minister Nickolas Steele said they have ordered the all-Inclusive hotel to move their guests off the island as quickly as possible and to divert all other expected arrivals to other hotels in other countries.
The Health Minister also said an investigation is taking place to determine why, when and how the virus was able to spread at the hotel.
The Minister of Health said they will be trying to find out if the outbreak at Sandals was as a result of breaches of COVID-19 regulations or a “flaw” in the protocols.
Guests who stay at Sandals and two other hotels designated as all-inclusive, do not undergo COVID-19 testing as a matter of course and there have been reports of guests mingling openly with staff who in turn return to the wider community after work.
This is being viewed as a major weakness in the country’s COVID-19 defence, given the high risk of transmission within the close quarters of the hotel.
One hotel employee told The New Today Newspaper that at Sandals the guests mingle freely with the staff, even sharing hugs and close contact to take photographs together.
Thirteen family members of a Sandals employee who tested positive have also been infected and are in quarantine.
At least two children from the female Sandals staff member are among the 13 infected from the same household and were in the classroom up to Friday when school closed for the Christmas break.
Three other staff members and nine guests at Sandals have tested positive and there is one additional positive case at an unnamed hotel, a ten year old from Canada.
The total number of cases have climbed to 71 as of Sunday afternoon, up from 43 from March to December 10.
Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shawn Charles said more results are pending from another 35 samples being tested at the St George’s University Lab and the General Hospital Lab and 200 hotel workers are also being tested.
Dr. Charles said they are expecting the number of cases to continue to climb over the next few days.
“It is very likely that this number will increase significantly,” he said at Sunday’s news conference.
An earlier statement from the Ministry of Health said, “Given the health emergency that this situation warrants, the Government of Grenada, through the Ministry of Health, has deployed all efforts, including personnel and resources, to address this grave threat to public health, safety, order and the maintenance of medical and other supplies and services essential to life in Grenada.
“Unprecedented, aggressive efforts have been taken to further contain this outbreak of COVID-19.”
Health officials are also asking the public to be extra careful and to strictly follow all COVID-19 protocols such as wearing of masks, cleaning hands and avoiding social gatherings.
“It will get worse before it gets better,” Dr Charles warned, adding that it should not be business as usual going forward.
The Minister of Health has also made it clear that Grenada will not go on lock down because of this new crisis.
He said, “We have prepared for this eventually. We cannot afford to close our borders.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry has revoked all permissions which had been granted for public events and is calling for all social gathering to cease for at least the next week or two as the crisis unfolds.
He said they are looking at new criteria for the staging of public events and these new protocols may exclude some or all of the planned events.
The public is also being asked to spend as little time as possible out in the public and to return to their homes and “shelter in place” as much as they can.