Gov’t pressed to identify more shelters due to Covid protocols

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By Carlena Knight

As the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season approaches its peak, government is cognisant of the need to bring more shelters on stream in keeping with social distancing protocols.

“The Ministry of Health has indicated that if we had another hurricane and persons had to be sheltered, and one person within a shelter that accommodates, let’s say, 25 other families had Covid, and there is not an effective spacing of persons within that environment to contain the possible spread, then you can imagine we would be faced with two calamities,” Information Minister Melford Nicholas said during Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.

Nicholas said that there may be a need for a “four-fold increase in available shelters” and that they will have to “expand the scope” from the normal churches and community centres as shelters.

According to the latest post-Cabinet notes, “vulnerable households may have to turn to shelters” as well if needs be and, thus far, 20 shelters have been identified but because of Covid-19 an updated list is of necessity.

Identification of these additional shelters according to the director of the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS), Philmore Mullin, are already underway with a team of assessors who will evaluate the structures.

The main requirement that the buildings must be assessed on is their “structural integrity”, Mullin said.

“We want to make certain that the building is sound in terms of the design and construction, the location, if it’s a flood prone area, things like if the windows and doors are intact and that there won’t be unnecessary exposure whether from glass windows or electrical disrepairs, and those sorts of things,” he said.

Where shelters on Barbuda are concerned, both Mullin and Nicholas remain confident that those preparations are adequate, and according to Nicholas, most of the houses and structures on the sister isle have been rebuilt following Hurricane Irma.

Additional supplies, however, will be shipped to Barbuda as soon as possible.

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