Grenada PM's message for Canadian tourists amid pandemic: 'Please come'

The prime minister of Grenada says the country is working to rebuild its economy and boost tourism in an effort to continue funding pandemic supports for its residents.

Prime Minister Keith Mitchell told CTV News Channel on Sunday that it has COVID-19 stimulus packages specifically for the poor and vulnerable, but worries whether the country will be able to provide this aid for much longer.

He said the pandemic may continue for a "long time," and the country needs revenue to continue supporting its people.

"Basically we are trying to do what we can to rebuild the economy of the country because that's crucial," Mitchell said. "So getting the economy back, investment back in[to] the country… and of course the support of the regional and international community."

Mitchell, who is also Chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Authority, says Grenada has done well in handling the pandemic, given that it is the southernmost island in the Caribbean Sea with a population of approximately 112,000.

The country saw an increase in case numbers in September, but Mitchell says hospitalization rates and deaths have since come down.

"Yes, we have a lot of problems like many countries around the world, but because of the united effort of the people in the country, we are now seeing a serious reduction in the spikes," Mitchell said.

According to data tracked by the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been 5,531 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Grenada since the pandemic began, in addition to 167 deaths. On Sunday, the country reported 47 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Following the country's uptick in cases in September, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel advisory from Grenada, advising Americans to avoid all travel there. For those who must travel to the island, the CDC recommends they be fully vaccinated before they go.

The Public Health Agency of Canada does not have any special advisory in place for Grenada but continues to advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of the country and to use extra caution if they must travel.

While the country is open to tourists, Grenada has some of the strictest travel policies in place to ensure everyone is kept safe, according to Mitchell.

Effective July 31, all travellers entering Grenada are required to be fully vaccinated. In addition, they must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result 72 hours prior to their flight's departure. Once arriving in Grenada, travellers will have to take another PCR test and quarantine for up to 48 hours while they await their results.

Once that second test comes back negative, Mitchell says tourists are then free to visit their friends and family, and tour the island "as they wish."

Grenada is one of the world's top producers of some of the most common spices including nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and turmeric, all of which Mitchell says Canadian travellers love to get their hands on when they visit.

"We tell them we have a lot of supply here, so please come," he said.

Mitchell said September's surge in COVID-19 infections actually encouraged more locals to get vaccinated and is hopeful the trend will continue, despite case numbers decreasing.

Grenada has administered a total of 58,985 COVID-19 vaccine doses as of Oct. 1, according to the WHO, and the number of Grenadians fully vaccinated against COVID-19 currently sits between 31 and 32 per cent. But Mitchell says is still "much too low."

"We hope that is not just a temporary thing that people will consider this as very serious evidence that they must protect themselves, they must vaccinate, they must be adhere to the protocol all the time -- wear your masks, social distance, and of course sanitize and wash your hands on a regular basis," Mitchell said.

He says misinformation about the vaccine, spread through social media, has hampered Grenada's vaccination campaign.

"The misinformation is enormous," he said. "Just like in Canada, there's a lot of misinformation coming from quarters that you don't expect."

Despite this, Mitchell says Grenadians living abroad have actually returned home to help with the country's vaccine rollout. In addition, he said there has been people living in other countries, including Canada, continue to send supplies to aid Grenada's fight against COVID-19.

"We have seen a collective effort by the people of the country," he said.