By Caribbean News Global contributor
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent — Work is progressing on the refurbishing of a house in the Argyle – Mt Pleasant area to be used as the quarantine facility for COVID-19 patients. The centre will be retrofitted “to accommodate a maximum of 24 patients — 14 upstairs and 10 downstairs with support facilities,” explained prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves delivering his 2020 National Heroes Day address.
Prime minister Gonsalves added that a second building on the site is scheduled for repairs and retrofitting, to accommodate nursing and medical personnel, said “ the third group of buildings will be constructed for additional housing for staff and dining facilities. In all, rooms will be provided for up to 12 nursing and medical personnel [on-site] at any given time.”
According to prime minister Gonsalves, his preference is that no one would have to be kept at the quarantine facility, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “we are preparing.”
Three separate contractors are working on [three sets of] physical facilities, the Vincentian leader added: “We expect that by mid-April 2020, all these facilities will be ready for occupation.”
The cost of retrofitting and constructing the facilities at Mount Pleasant-Argyle is roughly $1.3 million, “That doesn’t have to do with the leasing of the premises, which we are negotiating to purchase. And it’s a big property, meanwhile, other existing health facilities may be used in any emergency.”
Prime minister Gonsalves further stated that his government considered retrofitting a build at the Argyle facility not just for COVID-19, because “the truth is this, the way the world is going, … and the movement of people, you’re going to expect that … these opportunistic viruses happening more and more. We have seen them over the last 10-15 years: H1N1, bird flu, Ebola, now coronavirus.”
Last Sunday, prime minister Dr Gonsalves said on WEE FM Radio that he was prepared to make his private home at Gorse available for housing a Nigerian by birth – a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago by marriage who was quarantined due to alleged contact with that country’s fatal COVID-19 case, who arrive in St Vincent and the Grenadines, if hotel accommodation had not been secured.
The coronavirus is “a serious problem … but it’s not a problem, it’s not a difficulty for which we must have a heightened fear, panic or hysteria. A heightened fear, panic and hysteria will not help us,” Gonsalves said.