THE OPERATIONS of no fewer than 10 government departments and state agencies have had to be scaled back or temporarily shut down as St Vincent and the Grenadines experiences a spike in COVID19 infections.
The Roads Buildings & General Services Authority (BRAGSA), the Regional Integration & Diaspora Unit (RIDU), the Agency for Public Information (API), the Public Service Commissions (PSC), the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), St Vincent Electricity Services Limited (VINLEC), the District One courts and several police departments have all been visited by the virus in the last two weeks, resulting in either complete closure to allow for testing and sanitization or reduced operations.
Yesterday, persons who turned up at the Serious Offences Court and the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court were told that their matters would have to be rescheduled to allow for sanitization of the courts and testing of staff.
A court official told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that a member of staff at the DPP’s office had tested positive and this development had a domino effect on the courts, particularly those in District One.
The Serious Offences Court and the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court will remain closed today.
Last Thursday, the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) informed that the Rose Hall Police Station and the Police Garage had been closed to the public until further notice after some staff members at these locations were “affected by Covid19”. A release said the officers concerned had been “placed on quarantine and in isolation as the cases necessitated”.
The affected police departments have since widened to include the Calliaqua Police Station, the Sexual Offences Unit and one of the tactical units of the police.
Also yesterday, members of the public trying to access services at the Service Commissions Department were turned away after a member of staff tested positive.
As at Sunday, September 19, St Vincent and the Grenadines had 475 active cases of COVID19, the vast majority having tested positive in the last two weeks; three persons died from complications of COVID19 during this same period.
An official of the Ministry of Health told SEARCHLIGHT that the spread of COVID19 infection within the public service is already significantly affecting productivity.
The official explained that when there is a positive case in a department, unvaccinated employees who are close contacts of the positive person will have to isolate at home while awaiting test results, whereas close contacts who are vaccinated will be allowed to continue working while awaiting results, but they must maintain strict protocols including masking and sanitization.
This, the official said, is because vaccinated individuals are less likely to become infected or transmit the virus, so they are allowed to remain at work.
But with the number of unvaccinated employees exceeding the vaccinated in many departments, the strain is being felt by the few left to carry on.