The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment has issued an Advisory on Social Distancing to Faith Leaders, Event Organizers and the general public, to reduce the likelihood of further spread of the COVID 19 disease.

Social Distancing, which has been recommended by the WHO, is a  non- medical tactic used to keep people physically apart from each other, as close contact helps to spread the virus.

The Ministry of Health said Social Distancing is particularly important to prevent the spread of COVID-19, because there is no vaccine to protect against the virus which causes this disease. 

The Ministry is therefore asking Faith leaders to be socially, culturally and spiritually flexible at this time and to be proactive to protect themselves and their congregation.  It suggested that Faith Leaders should, as far as is possible reduce the number of church services and conduct services virtually if possible.

It also recommended limiting those attending church functions to a number that allows between 3 and 6 feet of space between persons in a seated group (typically 25 or less).  It also suggested that already planned weddings be limited to a gathering of a maximum of 10 persons for the ceremony, and the postponement of the reception. 

The Ministry is also recommending the postponment or cancellation of all non-essential social and cultural gatherings; and that persons avoid visiting the house-bound members especially the elderly.  In this regard it is suggested that phone contact would be most appropriate. This would reduce the risk of infecting the vulnerable sick and elderly.

It is also recommended that persons attending funerals be limited to family members, (between 10 and 25 persons). An attendance by invitation-only approach can be utilized.  Faith Leaders are also being advised to keep their members informed consistently with official, accurate and up to date information. 

In relation to Event Organizers, the Ministry of Health is advising that efforts be made to avoid overcrowding at events and maintain at least three feet (six feet if possible) between people.

The Ministry said hygiene and physical distancing must be combined.  Shaking hands, kissing and hugging as forms of greeting should be avoided.  Persons should consider smiling, waving or bumping elbows. And event organisers are also advised to keep their patrons informed consistently and constantly. 

In relation to the general public, persons are being advised to avoid the lunchroom rush if they eat in the employee dining room, cafeteria, or a restaurant.   It is suggested that persons eat earlier or later, eat at home or eat with just a few people in a quiet area, inside or out.

Persons are advised to avoid using public pens at the retail counter, at the building or hotel guest registration, at the bank, in the revenue office, and other public places. Use your own pen. And, in conference rooms, don’t use the public whiteboard markers. Carry your own.

Members of the public are also being advised to avoid the commuter rush periods where possible when using public transportation. Employers should consider staggering start times for work and allowing work from homes. Avoid times when you’ll be exposed to crowds.

The Ministry is also advising that persons find a quiet place when in a public space such as a business office or restaurant; and substitute tele-meetings for face-to-face meetings while reducing the number or duration of face-to-face meetings. Persons can also shift as much of the agenda as possible to email or teleconference, and use larger conference rooms if you must meet face-to-face.

The Ministry of Health said these recommendations for limiting non-essential contact are guided by scientific evidence, and will go a long way to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

To date, St Vincent and the Grenadines has recorded one confirmed case of COVID-19.   And the Ministry of Health says the support and corporation of all citizens are needed at this time, if this country is to minimize any further spread of COVID-19.