Nine doctors at the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC) in Antigua and Barbuda have tested for the COVID-19 virus, putting a strain on the hospital’s already stretched resources.
A statement issued by the MSJMC last week disclosed that seven of the physicians are recuperating well at home while the other two are receiving treatment at the Infectious Disease Centre (IDC) “out of an abundance of caution.”
“The risk to our healthcare workers is one of the great vulnerabilities of our healthcare system in a pandemic like this,” said Dr. Albert Duncan, MSJMC medical director.
”The growth we are seeing in COVID-19 cases in the country is placing an ever-greater strain on our hospital,” he noted.
The hospital said it was acutely aware of the COVID-19 risk to healthcare workers, especially if they are exposed to a high volume of sick patients, such as in the Emergency Department, or respiratory secretions such as in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
MSJMC said it has repeatedly warned of the threat posed by COVID-19 to its employees and had taken several measures to limit the spread of the virus.
Health authorities in Barbados have identified 11 COVID-19 “hotspots” in communities across the island and will be heading into those areas to identify and isolate primary contacts.
The disclosure was made during a press briefing and update on the ministry’s contact tracing strategies to curb the spread by Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Kenneth George.
He said intelligence gathered from teams in the field revealed several high-risk communities.
The chief medical officer further noted that health officials had noticed a “new pattern” where many primary contacts were occurring in families.
He said that while the disease was spreading at the community level, it was being transmitted mostly from household to household within neighborhoods.
Dr. George said one of the strategies the ministry has implemented is taking the individuals out of their homes based on their level of risk, and placing them in designated quarantine hotels to reduce the spread of the virus within families.
So far, 40 such individuals who live in high-risk communities and in crowded homes have been placed in quarantine.
The CMO revealed that 16 of those from a single household have since tested positive for COVID-19.
He pointed out that the Best-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory had the capacity to facilitate the testing of those picked up in contact tracing efforts, since it was currently up-to-date and had the ability to process up to 2,000 samples per day.
CIBC First Caribbean International Bank has donated US$500,000 to 10 Caribbean countries to help buy COVID-19 vaccines.
In a release, CIBC said Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago would benefit from the donation.
It is also separately donating US$250,000 to vaccinate 2,500 of its staff members.
The bank’s CEO Colette Delaney said vaccination is a “key weapon in the arsenal against vovid-19. We are delighted to assist governments and public health officials in ensuring that everyone who wants the vaccine can have access to it.”
She said public health officials “advised that as many people as possible must be vaccinated to achieve a level of immunity that makes the spread of the virus from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune.”
Last March, the bank donated US$250,000 to its 16 regional members to help officials buy testing supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies.
Grenada Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell has announced steps to reopen the island’s tourism sector in the coming months.
He said commercial flights from the United Kingdom and hotel properties, including the Sandals Resort, will be reopened by April.
He said the UK airlines have now reported that they will be resuming flights from April, which coincides with the move by some hotels to reopen.
Sandals, Grenada’s largest all-inclusive resorts, will also be reopening in early April.
In December 2020, the hotel suspended operations after the government disclosed a cluster of Covid-19 cases had been identified among staff and guests.
Dr. Mitchell said efforts are being made to put all systems in place to protect the country.
Jamaica recorded its highest number of daily COVID-19 cases, with 723 cases reported across the island in 24 hours a week ago.
The Ministry of Health said this brings the total number of confirmed cases to 26,026.
In addition, there were seven additional death that week, bringing the total to 453.
Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton said that the public health system is faced with a crisis as it continues to battle the pandemic.
He was referring to a spike in the number of cases a few days before, when it was then reported that more than 500 persons had tested positive.
He noted the virus is rampant in the population in almost every community across the country and in fact, very worryingly, the trend suggests that it will get worse before it gets better.
The health minister also said that he will be taking the latest numbers to the Cabinet where he will point to the impact the pandemic is having on the public health system.
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley is calling on the new United States government to begin dialogue aimed at removing sanctions against Venezuela.
He said these sanctions are contributing to a widespread humanitarian crisis in the Caribbean.
Speaking virtually as chairman of CARICOM, Dr. Rowley said the entire Caribbean would benefit from significant thawing of the relationship between Cuba and the US.
“Cuba is the Caribbean, Venezuela is the Caribbean. We know the nature of the issues and the history of the challenges in both areas, however we are very disappointed when the US recently reversed the very welcome, halting steps towards normalization of the relationship; and most recently the announcement of the unconvincing designation of Cuba as a terrorist-sponsoring state,” Dr. Rowley said.
“As for the Venezuelan relationship, we would like to see a dispassionate early review of the US ‘scorched earth policy,'” he added.
Dr. Rowley revealed that early in his tenure his government succeeded in convincing Venezuela to export its natural gas. However, he said, everything fell through because of US sanctions.
— Compiled by Azad Ali