As Dominicans continue dropping their masks and ignoring social distancing and going about their everyday lives, a new variant of the COVID-19 virus is taking the world by storm and may possibly be right here in Dominica.

On July 18, 2021, Health Minister Dr. Irvin McIntyre informed the nation of the sudden spike in active COVID cases here on the island, centering around the Eastern community of GrandFond, which has led to a shutdown of that village.

In his statement, he said that on July 6, 2021, six travelers arrived in Dominica from the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and were quarantined at a Safe in Nature COVID Certified property.

At the end of the quarantine period, two travelers tested positive and were admitted to the St James Isolation Unit. The other four travelers who tested negative were re-tested on Day 5, three of whom turned out positive and were also admitted to the St James Isolation Unit.

Given that all the positive cases were from the GrandFond community, over the last few days the Ministry of Health has been in that village swabbing and testing of primary and secondary contacts as well as random testing of residents of the community.

Additionally, the Health Minister highlighted that all other persons who were identified as primary and secondary contacts who do not reside in the community have also been tested and quarantined.

On Friday, July 16, thirty-two primary contacts were transferred to the Government Quarantine Facility in Portsmouth. Out of these primary contacts, two have returned positive as of July 18th, taking the total number of active cases on the island to 12.

As a precautionary measure, the Ministry has decided that for the next seven days, the community of GrandFond will be placed on a complete lockdown to minimize the risk of spreading the virus to other communities.

The conditions of the lockdown include limited access in and out of GrandFond to essential travel only such as medical emergencies, delivery of goods, and maintenance of public utilities, while residents of that area are warned to remain within the community and avoid any form of public gathering.

All church services, sporting activities, and other social events have been suspended in the community, as well as the closure of bars and schools.

Grocery shops are allowed to remain open with strict adherence to health protocols and will close from 6:00 pm daily.

Individuals who work outside the GrandFond community are encouraged to remain home for the specified period.

With regards to students from GrandFond currently sitting the CXC examinations, special arrangements will be made to facilitate these students with their exams to ensure there is no disruption in their exam schedule, he stated.

"I must underscore that we have recommended these measures for your safety and that of the wider community," Dr. McIntyre stated. "While we believe that the situation is under control and advise against panic, we want to urge everyone to remain diligent and we work together to minimize any spread of COVID-19 as we have done previously. We have been confronted with such scenarios in the past, and we have been successful in bringing each situation under control with the support of the community and the diligence of our frontline workers."

The minister did not indicate if the cases were the Delta variant of COVID-19 which is now the dominant strain worldwide, accompanied by a surge of deaths and lockdowns around the globe.