The New Today


Covid has laid bare the weakness in leadership

In times of national crisis great leaders demonstrate an immense ability to plan, inspire and empathise with the suffering of his or her countrymen and women. Great leaders lead from the front with resolute and persistence, they don’t cower in the face of danger. This can’t be said of our leader who has largely been in absentia during this pandemic.

Unlike regional counterparts in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados that can be seen at the forefront of their countries fight against Covid-19, it was rather surprising to see the leader recently surfaced in public. At the height of the current community spread of the virus when infections peaked and deaths rose rapidly, the leader was silent, leaving it up to the two piss-in-tail ignoramuses.

Now that the situation appears to be stabilising the leader wants to be front and center. This is not even good let alone great leadership.

A great leader possesses the ability to plan or put together a team of professionals to do so. He or she will oversee the planning effort, making sure the plan is able to address the crisis and return the country to some sense of normalcy.

The knee jerk, haphazard response to the ongoing community spread of the virus is a clear indication of the absence of a comprehensive plan by government to deal with the health crisis. This is a serious indictment on the ability of the leader to lead in this difficult time.

Why did the leader and his team not see the need to set up a parallel health system comprising isolation and step down centres, and a dedicated treatment facility for Covid patients to avoid overwhelming the main hospital?

International public health agencies including PAHO had warned regional countries of the transmissibility of the Delta variant and its ability to cause increasing hospitalisation and deaths. However, long before the Delta variant surfaced, at the beginning of the pandemic it was recommended that regional countries set up parallel health systems as part of a Covid-19 response plan.

Many regional countries went ahead and set up dedicated isolation and treatment facilities, however Grenada failed to do so. Any leader that worth their salt would have gone ahead at the beginning of the pandemic and get a comprehensive plan drawn up that would guide an effective response in the event of an outbreak.

The leader has consistently failed to inspire the nation during the course of this pandemic. His government’s actions in adopting entry protocols that are complaisant to big hotel owners, risking the lives of Grenadians, enabling double standard behaviour by Lance Aux Epines white and foreign investors, over poor black small business owners, and allowing partisan politics and cronyism to seep into the decision making process in the fight against Covid, have caused segments of the population to develop deep mistrust of politicians and policy makers. This mistrust is one of the forces driving vaccine hesitancy on the island.

In times of crisis, good leaders bring people together for a common cause, inspiring them to overcome their fears and take action because it is the right thing to do. The leader has not been able to do that, rather the litany of failures by his government has caused major groups of citizens to become both resentful and disillusioned.

One of the hallmarks of a great leader is the ability to identify with the suffering of others and to understand their situation and what they are going through in order to support them, as well as to be able to put oneself in the other person’s shoes and imagine how they feel.

President Joe Biden is very good at that, however, from all indications the leader here is unable to connect with the pain and anguish of the families of those who died during the recent wave of Covid infections.

Every time the leader attempts to show empathy it comes across as mechanic and disingenuous. It is easy to say the loss of those poor souls pain you, however showing sincere remorse for someone who thinks he is beyond self-reproach is difficult.

The leader could not bring himself to insert humanity in his utterances on the Covid victims by personalising them as sports icons, retired civil servants, bus drivers, teachers, students and not just an unprecedented death toll.

To continue to not show self- reproach when over one hundred and sixty five and counting died under your watch after your government’s litany of failures is a testimony to the absence of any empathy in the leader.

The latest address by the leader further reinforced the feeling that he lacks these important qualities of good leadership. To preside over this huge failure to develop a comprehensive plan that would guide the fight against Covid-19 and continues to act normal is reprehensible to say the least.

What is even more disturbing is his failure to acknowledge the missteps and breakdowns in his government’s Covid-19 response and give an undertaking to correct those shortcomings and come up with a plan that would help to prepare the nation for the next wave of infections.

During a pandemic there are usually three or more waves of infections having experienced its first wave, Grenada can expect at least another two waves. It is imperative that sufficient planning and preparations be done before the next wave.

Related:  The large number of deaths in such a short space of time

After listening to the speech it is clear the leader is content with the relatively slow pace of immunisation since he offered no new initiatives to ramp up vaccinations. He mentioned no new effort to get those vaccine hesitants to take the shot. At the current rate of vaccinations it will take the island well into next year to achieve heard immunity thus leaving the country’s population vulnerable to another wave of infections.

With no signal of an intention to undertake a thorough evaluation of the unprecedented large number of deaths and hospitalisations during this wave of infections, the people should not expect to see reorganisation of the heath infrastructure that would create dedicated isolation centres and treatment facilities in preparation for the next wave.

Instead of inspiring the population to overcome their fears, rise to the challenge and take action for the common good, the leader continues to blame the huge deaths by continually suggesting that they waited too long to seek medical attention.

What a heartless behaviour by the leader, knowing very well his government’s failure to set up dedicated treatment and isolation facilities is the underline cause of the high death rate. With the prevalence of comorbidities among the population it was to be expected that a large number of infected persons would, quickly become really sick and in need of proper medical attention.

The speech laid bare a leader who is out of touch with what is happening inside the campaign against Covid and more concerned with maneuvering himself into an advantageous political position to find the right time to call an early election.

The leader clearly threw caution to the wind by not taking time during the speech to highlight the epidemiological risk that still exist in spite of the downward trajectory in infections.

According to St. George’s University epidemiologist Dr. Gerald St. Cyr, if one considers for every fifteen deaths one thousand persons are infected there are thousands of infected persons not accounted for in the total confirmed cases figure stated on the Ministry of Health dash board.

This epidemiological gap should be a cause for serious concern since it suggests there are still significant amount of virus Transmission within the population.

The positivity rate appears to have plateaued just over ten percent which suggest a very delicate equilibrium between people’s movements, virus spread and vaccinations.

With that being said it was expected the leader would announce in his speech stepped up efforts to enforce public health protocols by relevant state agencies, an expanded deployment of health wardens to monitor businesses particularly bars and rum shops, implementation of a policy of three persons in a row on public buses and announced his government’s intention to engage teachers and parents on the matter of expanding the current vaccine mandates for small pox, rubella and measles to coronavirus with a view to getting children back into the classrooms.

The point is that in the absence of resolute leadership, proper planning and persistent messaging the island could be right back in the calamitous situation it was in two weeks ago.

The case of Singapore last year clearly demonstrates what can happen when there is an epidemiological gap. After a successful campaign that resulted in significant decline in infections among the general population, the island experienced a dramatic rise in infections.

This was caused by expatriate workers in migrant camps outside the major cities that were overlooked in the testing and surveillance initiative. These workers unknowingly brought the virus into the homes of wealthy Singaporeans and other places where they work resulting in a significant wave of infections.

This is why the absence of these three important attributes in the leader, to plan, inspire and empathise should be of serious concern to the nation. Equally troubling is his tendency to cower when the going gets tough.

This does not augur well for the next wave the island will face in light of the current state of medical facilities, no dedicated isolation and treatment centres, little effort to increase vaccine uptake and the tendency for the population to slip back into complacency after a short period of heightened vigilance.

The perfunctory, selective and deceptive manner in which the leader is going about the matter of vaccine mandates tells us all about his courage and resoluteness in leading the fight against Covid-19.

Despite the silver lining and glimmer of hope, dark storm clouds continue to gather on the horizon and that is why I implore each unvaccinated, teacher, parent and school child twelve years and older, persons with comorbidities including hypertension, diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease, every frontline worker to get vaccinated for another wave is coming.

It is clear that the Emperor has no clothes and will certainly be absent again from the frontline when the battle gets tough. Save yourselves and family.

The leader by not being astute has squandered the early gains made at the onset of the pandemic and now put the health of the population in serious jeopardy.

Special Correspondent