St. Lucians told us to brace for the fifth COVID-19 wave

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CASTRIES, St. Lucia– The chairman of the St. Lucia COVID-19 Management Centre (CMC), Cletus Springer, Tuesday warned of a fifth wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, saying that St. Lucians should not be surprised at “this news” because they had been “forewarned that such a development was inevitable.”

“Fellow St. Lucians, it’s my unpleasant duty to tell you that all key indicators point to the start of a 5th wave of COVID-19 in Sr. Lucia,” Springer wrote on his Facebook page, adding that December is one of “heightened social activity and international travel.

“From our daily updates over the past week, you will have already seen evidence of a dramatic upward trend across all indicators,” he added.

On Monday, the latest figures released by the Ministry of Health, Wellness, and Elderly Affairs showed that 38 new cases of the COVID-19 had been recorded from a total of 345 samples, which were collected on December 25 and 26.

These new cases brought the total number of patients diagnosed to 13 357 with 204 active points. The island has recorded 295 deaths since the first case was registered in March.

The ministry said that a total of 49 067 individuals had been fully vaccinated to date. Another 6 529 are partially vaccinated and 3, 062 have received their booster shot.

Springer said that the most recent data, as of today, shows that the rate of transmission (Rt) has increased from 0.8 to 1.9, meaning that every infected person now infects nearly two people.

He said that the number of active cases is up from a low of under 100 a week ago to 178, adding “the positivity rate, that is, the average percentage of all COVID-19 tests performed that is positive has risen from three to seven percent.

“The percent positive is a critical measure because it tells us how widespread infection is in an area where the testing is being done. The average daily infection rate—which tells us how actively the virus is spreading—has almost quadrupled from three percent to 11.5 percent. This means that every day, nearly four times as many people are getting infected with COVID-19.”

Springer said that it is essential to note that these indicators do not capture the impact of social activities over the past week.

“We should see these impacts by the first week of January, and by mid-January, we can expect to see the impact of New Year’s Day activities. Also important is that we do not yet know whether and Omicron is influencing the data and what effect it will have in the future. Based on its ease of spread, we can expect to see a surge in daily infections.”

Springer said that even though the Respiratory Hospital has 130 beds, based on current staffing availability, “we know that only about 30 patients can be adequately cared for at a time.

“And while early indications are that Omicron may be milder than Delta, the more people who catch it, the greater the likelihood more people will end up in hospital. And on top of all of that, Delta is still not done with us.

“As has been indicated many times by our health professionals, the major concern has been and will continue to be keeping the number of people who will require care at the hospital to a level where hospital staff can cope. At this point, after two years of intense stress, the issue is no longer solely about the number of patients who require care. It’s about the number of frontline staff who will require care because of burnout and mental illness.”

Springer said that at this point, it’s clear that we’ve got a bumpy ride ahead. We can do much more than hope, pray and follow the protocols.

“Those of us who’ve not yet done so should seriously consider getting vaccinated. That’s the most effective way to live our lives without fear of COVID-19 putting us in a hospital or stealing our lives.

“The severity and impact of a 5th wave depend entirely on how we conduct ourselves in the coming days, weeks, and months. We know what we must do and what we must not do. We know that one of the easiest ways to get COVID-19 is by taking part in mass crowd events. So let’s stay away from these activities.

“We know we can have COVID and not show symptoms. So let’s protect our friends, loved ones, and co-workers by wearing our masks and staying at least six feet apart from each other, especially when we are in confined spaces.”

Springer said every effort must be made to help curb the spread of the virus, adding, “we need to get all of our children back to school next week. Remember them? Remember the stress of online learning and the inadequacy of learning devices?

“All of us need to return to work so we can feed and clothe our families, pay our car loans and mortgages, and generally, pursue our dreams. We need to relieve our children of the enormous debt burden created by spending on COVID-19. Think of the many other things that can be done with the $$$millions now devoted to COVID-19,” Springer added.

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