KINGSTOWN – Authorities at St Vincent’s emergency shelters Friday facing a near impossible task of limiting the spread of COVID-19 as they house hundreds of people fleeing the wrath of the La Soufriere volcano.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Simone Keizer-Beache was reported as saying that two people who were evacuated from the volcano danger zone this week had tested positive for the coronavirus. The public has not been told exactly which shelters are affected by the evolving situation, but from all reports, the news triggered mass testing and contact tracing.
Just outside the capital city, the Lodge Village Government School is currently home to more than 150 men, women and children who fled the heart of the volcano’s ‘red zone’ on the North Leeward side of the island. When a team from Barbados TODAY arrived, people appeared to be making the best out of a tough situation. Friends and neighbours were chatting with each other, boys were playing a game of football, and dozens of children were huddled around a make-shift projector to watch an evening movie.
Shelter Manager Jolene Lavie confirmed that officials have been informing residents about the COVID-19 situation in the shelters and trying desperately to maintain protocols despite the cramped living arrangements. But she vehemently denied any suggestion that anyone is being coerced into taking vaccinations.
Lavie told Barbados TODAY: “We are telling them that there is a COVID-19 outbreak within one of the shelters, so they have to be on their guard and they need to keep themselves safe and that is how they are going to protect themselves and protect others. It’s a bit difficult, because you have to keep reminding them to keep the masks on. So yes, it has been a bit difficult.
“We tell them to wear their masks at all times and that can help and there is water in the pipes so they are encouraged to wash their hands and keep their places clean.
“Even though we have 150… we are still over capacity, so people have to share a room. Families are together in one room, but there are a lot of people living together still and that can give rise to certain problems. But they have been working along well with us and everything seems to be going smoothly so far. I hope it stays that way.”
In addition to continuous patrols by security forces, Lavie explained that after 6 p.m., the gates at the Lodge Village School are closed and people are asked to sign in and out of the building.
She added that basics like drinking water, clothes, toiletries, cots, mattresses and other items are in high-demand as there is no telling how long the evacuees will call the shelters home.
For the most part, residents who spoke with Barbados TODAY revealed that while the living situation is not necessarily ideal, they are making the most of it. But while expressing full commitment to observing the COVID-19 protocols, there appears to be a general air of scepticism about the coronavirus vaccine.