Former prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Sir James Mitchell says the dengue fever outbreak is affecting tourism on the Grenadine island of Bequia coming on the heels of the coronavirus (COVID-19) that ended the tourist season in March, “in one of the top months of tourism income.
“And what is more, I can tell you, as you know, we are in the tourism business in Bequia. We have had cancellations because of dengue. So on top of the problems of coronavirus, the perception of people getting out of their own country and having to transit Barbados or somewhere else to get here, suddenly, we have the enemy within the gates here,” said Sir James, a hotelier.
At least six people, including three students, have died of the mosquito-borne disease and over 655 cases have been confirmed across the country.
“I am worried and I am saddened by the deaths that I hear in regard to dengue,” Sir James said, adding that he understood that the 13-year-old girl who died last Friday had sent her homework to her school the day before she died.
“That is a sad case, what is happening. And I am worried about the dengue,” said Sir James, who served as prime minister from 1984 to October 2000.
He said the dengue epidemic comes “when we were just about thinking that we were taking off and having some hope about the upcoming season”.
Sir James said there was no dengue outbreak of this magnitude when his New Democratic Party (NDP) formed the government here, saying “we handled it and got rid of it quickly.
“We did spraying and we organised the communities and had our people going around and looking — inspections all around and seeing the possible breeding sites of the mosquitoes. It called for a national campaign to not give the mosquitoes the opportunity to arise,” said Sir James, acknowledging that dengue and other mosquito-borne illnesses have been a reality of life in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
But he said that the current outbreak “reflects on the environmental condition in the country and the general state of the villages,
“That spirit of togetherness in a community and wanting your community to shine, I think that spirit has been a bit broken,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Roads, Buildings and General Services Authority (BRAGSA) has launched an EC$2.5 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) the campaign dubbed “Fight Against Dengue” taking the form of a road and drain cleaning programme which will run until October 22.
BRAGSA chief executive officer, Kem Bartholomew said the initiative is aimed at assisting the Public Health Department in the fight against the dengue fever.
In a statement, BRAGSA said it recognises the seriousness of the illness, and wants to play a pivotal role in the combative efforts.
Bartholomew said work will be carried out in every district across St. Vincent and the Grenadines and that cleaning gangs will be out on the road and drain cleaning exercise.
The eight-day project will be carried out a cost of EC$2.5 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents).