The Public Service Union (PSU) on Thursday called on the government to institute a shift system for public servants to mitigate against COVID-19 “crippling the delivery of critical public services”.

The union, in a press statement on Thursday, noted that the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment had announced that 28 adult nationals without recent travel history have tested positive for COVID-19.

This is evidence that the local threat from the coronavirus is continuing to grow at a worrying rate in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the PSU said.

It said that many of the services provided at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital have been modified due to concerns about the spread of the disease.

“A public declaration has been made that several senior health officials were advised to quarantine as a precautionary measure because they were in close contact with an individual who tested positive for the virus,” the PSU noted.

The union was referring to the announcement on Wednesday that Minister of Health Jimmy Prince, his permanent secretary, Cuthbert Knights, and Chief Medical Officer Simone Keizer-Beache, as well as two members of the administrative staff of the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment have been advised, out of an abundance of caution, to quarantine for five days, ending Saturday, Jan. 9.

The ministry said this advice is “based on contact tracing initiated during the evening of Tuesday Jan. 5, after the receipt of a positive COVID-19 PCR result by a relative of a staff member of the ministry.

The PSU said it was fearful that the operations of the Public Service could be negatively affected if public servants were to contract COVID-19.

“If one officer in a department or ministry were to test positive for the coronavirus, this can result in the shutdown of that unit or department, crippling the delivery of critical public services.

“The Public Service Union is fearful that this situation will soon be manifested and is appealing to the Minister of Public [Service] to address the issue of instituting a shift system in the Public Service to mitigate against such an eventuality.”

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