St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is fearful of a spike in Covid-19 cases on the island, given that evacuees in shelters may not be able to social distance and access pipe-borne water to wash their hands regularly.
Thousands of St Vincent and the Grenadines nationals had to be evacuated from their homes when the La Soufriere volcano erupted for the first time in 42 years last week Friday.
Gonsalves noted that as of yesterday, 4,200 evacuees were registered at 89 emergency shelters while over 6,000 evacuees were staying at people’s homes.
He said the figures at private dwellings could be much more.
Speaking on NBC Radio SVG yesterday morning, Gonsalves said while Covid-19 numbers in the last few days were not alarming, they were a cause for concern.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Chief Medical Officer Simone Keizer-Beache said the likelihood of the virus spreading in shelters was much greater, as people cannot social distance as they want and cannot wash their hands as regularly as they should because of a lack of water in some areas.
She said between Tuesday and Wednesday there were 12 new positive cases of the virus. She said five of the cases were picked up among evacuees.
“Two of those persons were in the home of relatives, so we have exposure within a private home. The other three persons... one in one shelter exposing 12 persons in that shelter and two persons in another shelter exposing eight persons in that shelter immediately as close contacts,” Keizer-Beache reported during the radio programme.
She said contact tracing of those cases continues, while mass testing is being conducted at various shelters.
“We are really extremely concerned. In some situations, no one in the shelter was vaccinated so that’s all vulnerable persons,” she said.
Keizer-Beache cautioned evacuees and other nationals to continue to wear their face masks, as it not only protected them from volcanic ash but also Covid-19.