COVID-19 impedes re-opening of school in St Lucia

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Minister for Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs, Moses Jn Baptiste, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Sharon Belmar-George and Minister for Education, Sustainable Development, Innovation, Science, Technology and Vocational Training, Shawn A. Edward

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia – It has frequently been said that COVID-19 is a “public health emergency, everything else is collateral damage by exposing existing contradictions and faultlines.”

This reality was further illustrated by the ministry of education, sustainable development, innovation science, technology and vocational training, in a press release ‘adjustments to school operations’, said:

“ Based on recent stakeholder engagements and consultation, the ministry of education has decided to suspend classes for Thursday, January 20, 2022, and Friday 21, 2022.

“During the week of Monday, January 24, 2022, to Friday, January 28, 222 the following groupings will continue face to face instruction: Early childhood education centres – grade 6 students – form 5 students – and vocational and tertiary institutions” adding “ All other groupings will revert to the distributed learning approach as per the continuing of learning plan.”

These adjustments follow the reopening of school January 10 to the apprehension of many, during an expected increase in COVID-19 cases, and [ according to the ministry of health and other government officials] following the festive season, the ministry of education announcement, said:

 “We continue to be reflective of procedures and practices in the interest of the health and safety of all of our stakeholders of the school community.”

On Monday, education minister Shawn Edward announced that face-to-face classes will continue for the time being.

President of the National Principals Association Valerie St Helene-Henry, said: “We were anticipating it was a given that we need to close schools for a while, and so we were taken by surprise.” Moreover, “The children cannot be at school and be instructed when the teachers are not there,” said St Helene-Henry.

Back to school Monday, January 10, commenced with much anxiety from parents, the school transport system and the Teachers Union. And according to the Teachers Union, they felt blindsided by the decision to reopen school.

St Lucia continues to struggle with COVID-19 and back to school despair, with face to face learning, and the non-availability of a protracted hybrid learning model, supported by systems and infrastructure; meantime, COVID-19 continues to impede all sectors of society in Saint Lucia amid a rapid surge in coronavirus cases, termed a COVID-19 Storm.

The government continues to encourage vaccination with approximately 28 percent of the population complying with inoculation.

The minister of health on Tuesday reported a total of 50, 592 individuals have been fully vaccinated. Another 6, 089 are partially vaccinated and 5, 569 have received their booster shot. The number of active cases in the country to date is 3, 337. The total number of COVID-19 deaths in the country is 245 and the total number of COVID-19 related deaths is 72.

However, chief medical officer, Dr Sharon Belmar-George says that extra measures are taken at the various health centers to accommodate for increased testing for COVID-19. She adds that while having the ability to test up to 2,000 persons in one day, the increased number of cases allows for a delay in reporting results to the public.

Reporting on the data analysis of the fifth wave of COVID-19, the ministry of health, in a press release, January 17, said:

 “As of January 15, 2022, Saint Lucia has diagnosed a total of 17, 222 cases in the country, with 3,280 active cases presently. The daily infection rate for the last 7 days is 171.6 per 100,000 population per day, with a 36 percent testing positivity rate and a transmission rate of 3.3. We have noted a total of 314 COVID-19 deaths. We have 29 positive cases admitted at the respiratory hospital, 2 are severely ill.

“Since the commencement of the 5th wave on December 16, 2021, 4,092 cases have been diagnosed with an average of 136 cases per day. Women account for 59 percent of the cases and 18 COVID-19 deaths have been recorded. Tourists account for 2 percent of the cases diagnosed during the last 7 days. The prevalence increase is noted mainly in Gros-Islet, Babonneau, Dennery and Castries. We note the highest COVID-19 mortality rate for the 5th wave in Dennery District.”

In essence, the COVID situation is far greater than presented at health institutions and captured in reported data, given the inabilityto test up to 2,000 persons in one day the increased number of cases allows for a delay in reporting results to the public,” can suffice to untimely remedial measures.

Thus, “additional response measures put in place in anticipation of the increase in infections, including strengthening of public health measures; strengthening of the immunization program island-wide; enhanced testing capacity to manage increasing cases by increasing procurement of reagents and test kits; respiratory hospital improvements; procurement of equipment and supplies and, confinement hours were reviewed,” perhaps suffice to working in a circular motion, breaking COVID-19 records, and bamboozled, on the true state of the rapidly changing public health catastrophe in Saint Lucia.

Update

Wednesday evening January 19, 2022, the ministry of health, wellness and elderly affairs confirmed 451 new cases of COVID-19, processed on Monday, January 18, 2022, from a total of 975 samples of which 928 samples, are well below the ability to test up to 2,000 persons in one day.

The ministry of health report January 19, reads, in part:

“The samples were collected from January 15, 2022, to January 18, 2022. These new cases bring the total number of cases diagnosed in the country to date to 18, 322. The number of positive cases makes up 46.26 percent of all the samples processed on that date.

“Active cases in the country to date is 3, 650. Currently, there are 35 positive cases of COVID-19 admitted at the respiratory hospital, of which two of them are severely ill.

A total of 50, 711 individuals have been fully vaccinated. Another 6, 046 are partially vaccinated and 5, 628 have received their booster shot.”

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