The New Today

Commentary

COVID-19 is a national crisis requiring a national response

Adrian “Persuader” Thomas – NDC’s Acting Party Leader

As the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths increase, we are all impacted and are hurting. On behalf of the membership of the NDC, and on my own behalf, I extend sincerest condolences to the families and friends of all who have lost loved ones. Only last week, I too lost a family member. Amid the pain, we are relieved that so many are recovering.

The NDC believes that this is a time to put differences aside and unite to overcome this national crisis. In fact, an inclusive, collaborative, united approach to fighting Covid-19 has been our position since the pandemic began.

The fight cannot be won without input from political parties, labour, the business and religious communities, and civil society, together with government and frontline workers.

From inception, we have been offering suggestions. The suggestions the NDC offered that were taken on board include:

  1. The lockdown in March 2020
  2. The closure of the borders in March 2020
  3. The withdrawal of the draconian Covid-19 Bill. This call was widely supported by various sectors, including the youth and the Grenada Bar Association
  4. Invocation of the Public Health and Quarantine Acts, rather than the Covid-19 Bill
  5. More recently, a National Day of Prayer and engagement of more stakeholders
  6. Activation of NaDMA, though limited, in helping with the distribution of relief packages
  7. More pop-up clinics for testing and vaccinations.

At times, the NDC has disagreed with government’s approach to certain aspects of the management of the pandemic and we very clearly voiced our disagreement.  For instance, we continue to advocate for a review of the 48-hour quarantine for the vaccinated. This is against the science, and it puts our people at risk of encountering vaccinated people who are infected. This is we believe is one of the main factors that sparked the current outbreak.  We have also repeatedly called for isolation centres. The policy that allows people who test positive to isolate at home with others, can help to spread the virus. The virus can also be spread when infected people get on buses to go home, after receiving their diagnosis.

We have also expressed concern, that government has not placed enough emphasis on putting structures in place for Grenada’s economic recovery and prosperity after Covid-19. Instead, government continues to focus on a single sector, tourism.

Despite these areas of disagreement, we of the NDC maintain that we are all in this fight together and as such, we must constantly look for areas where we can find common ground, in the interest of all our people.  If we adopt an approach that puts selfish interests above our people, we will not be putting you first, as we promise we will.

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In the national interest, I accepted an invitation from the Prime Minister for a meeting to discuss the deteriorating Covid-19 situation, and to see how, as the main opposition party, we can be of greater assistance. Indeed, no responsible organization would decline such an invitation, especially after calling for inclusion.

Some of the proposals the NDC delegation put to the Prime Minister and his team, included:

  1. Increasing the number of testing and vaccination centers to minimize crowding
  2. Establishing a separate isolation unit for covid patients
  3. Recruitment and training of health workers and volunteers
  4. Approaching Flow and Digicel to assist with PBX lines to improve hotline services
  5. Embarking on a public education campaign with new faces, especially national cultural figures
  6. Reviewing the 48-hour quarantine period
  7. That relief measures be administered by nonpartisan or bipartisan groups.
  8. Asking utility companies to put a hold on disconnections for a period to be determined.
  9. Asking banks and credit unions for a moratorium on mortgage payments.
  10. The formation of a National Covid-19 Task Force to include political parties and other interest groups.

Both sides agreed to continue to dialogue going forward.

For our part, since March 2020, the NDC has distributed hundreds of masks, hot lunches, and care packages all over our tri-island state. Additionally, we have been at the forefront of the public education campaign with a variety of public service announcements, town hall style meetings, press conferences and releases. We will continue to engage in these efforts.

When appropriate, we will criticize and call out government for lapses and failures. However, we recognize that this is a national crisis that requires a national response. Everyone is hurting whether they support the NDC or the NNP. As a responsible opposition party, we must play our part.

We therefore categorically deny, and we reject and distance ourselves from the falsehoods peddled by some, who irresponsibly use their platforms to try to undermine the efforts of the NDC to help our people get through this pandemic. Everyone with a platform should use it responsibility to unite our people, rather than to divide. The NDC encourages all our people to stand united in the fight against Covid-19. Covid-19 sees no colours.

We encourage you all, to help our frontline workers by taking individual responsibility for adhering to the protocols. We also encourage you to get vaccinated. Our doctors advise that this is our best chance at reducing infections, hospitalizations and deaths, and this is supported by our present reality.

I pray God’s continued blessing on you all and on our beloved land.

Adrian Thomas is the Acting Party Leader of the National Democratic Congress