US medical students in the Caribbean fly home during COVID-19 lockdown

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By Caribbean News Global contributor

BARBADOS/ St KITTS/ St MAARTEN – Last Saturday, students at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (RUSVM) St Kitts and Nevis returned to the US via a chartered World Atlantic Airlines MD83 aircraft. No passenger disembarked in St Kitts and Nevis. The aircraft first stopped at Barbados’ Grantley Adams International Airport to pick up veterinary students on the island.

After boarding the students in St Kitts and Nevis the aircraft were scheduled to St Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport to take on students on the Dutch Caribbean island.

Last Wednesday St Kitts and Nevis authorities confirmed two cases of COVID-19. Before confirmation of the presence of the COVID-19 virus, scores of RUSVM students opted to return to the United States.

“On Saturday, March 28, 2020, St Kitts and Nevis recorded five additional cases of COVID-19. This brings the total number of confirmed cases to seven. The patients are three females and two males who are all citizens of St Kitts and Nevis. The females are aged 10 months, 24 years and 36 years, while the two male patients are 29 years and 39 years,” minister of state with responsibility for health, Wendy Phipps said in a statement.

She said all five of these cases are travel-related “meaning that the cases were imported into the Federation. This determination has been made based on the patients’ travel history to St Maarten and Antigua during the period March 6 – 13, 2020.”

A further call was made on Sunday for robust testing, by medical internist Dr Terrance Drew appealed to prime minister Harris “to call all stakeholders to the table including the opposition and show a united front.”

“I am asking for robust testing where we can test at least 100 persons per day at no cost to the people, a separate ICU space away from the Joseph N France General Hospital and risk and overtime pay for all frontline workers,” said Dr Drew.

“I am fully available to work during this (COVID-19) crisis and the following will not matter: political party, race, age, sex,  financial status, social status, country of origin, etc. The only thing that matters is that another human being needs my help,” said Dr Drew, who added: “Let’s put down the political swords and work together as a people.”

“Please take my advice. I am aggressive on this issue because I was in the USA when the Swine flu was winding down and it was depressing to see the suffering of the people even with well-experienced specialists. I do not want this to take root here,” said Dr Drew noting that the country is in a state of emergency, social distancing is being enforced, hygienic practices have been improved and the Cuban specialists are now in St Kitts and Nevis.

“My only hope was that these measures were taken before the first confirmed cases, but that in the past (so) let’s do all we can now,” he said.

Medical professionals from Cuba with Dr Terrance Drew

Meanwhile, the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) welcomed a 30-person medical team from the Republic of Cuba to assist the twin-island federation battle the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Cuba’s Resident ambassador to St Kitts and Nevis, His Excellency Aberlado Hernandez Ferrer, was present during the greeting.

Dr Drew, since January 2020, has been publicly calling on the government of St Kitts and Nevis to make an official request for assistance from Cuba.

“I want to say a special welcome to the Cuban health professionals. We appreciate the sacrifice that they are making to be here. They have left their families behind to come to another country to help in the fight against this disease,” said Dr Drew, who along with other Cuban-trained local physicians, Dr Sharon Archibald and Dr Norgen Wilson, personally welcomed members of the Cuban medical team.

“I want to express sincere gratitude to the government and People of Cuba for responding to the call for help. Moreover, I am happy that the call was made. Let us as a nation show our sincere gratitude and appreciation by displaying their flag,” said Dr Drew.

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