The New Today

Commentary

Do not blame the people the buck stops with you

Sometime ago I warned that the Delta virus will come upon us like a thief in the midnight, well, apparently, it has now entered the island, however Grenadians are yet to wake up from their slumber.

The recent announcement of a confirmed positive case with no travel history suggests the island could be in the early stages of community spread of the highly contagious and deadly strain. This is frightening, to say the least, in light of low levels of vaccinated persons in the population and large numbers of children and adolescents that are not eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine, the lone one on offer to Grenadians.

The Delta variant is more transmissible, able to spread more easily, infects children and adolescents at a higher rate, and more virulent. This strain of coronavirus has decimated India, where it was first identified, and is driving the current surge in infections in Europe and America.

From all indications, the island is facing the prospect of an intense community spread of the Delta variant which could be avoided if those in authority had pursued a more effective campaign against the virus.

After the initial successful lockdown in March of last year ensuing, efforts to reopen the economy and keep the virus from entering our borders were marred by incompetence, arrogance favouritism, double standards, and a general lack of leadership.

Although the island’s infection figures are low it was only a matter of time before we faced the consequences of such failures. The frightening reality of such is now about to hit us as a nation. This is happening at the same time when a majority of our population is being influenced by anti-vaccine rhetoric and is defiant in light of government’s unfair and partisan implementation of public health protocols.

Persons appear unconcerned to the threat posed by Delta variant to the children and adolescent population on the island. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children accounted for fifteen percent of all newly reported Covid-19 cases across America in the week leading up to August 5th, and over ninety four thousand cases were reported during that period, a thirty one percent increase over the previous period.

Children and the unvaccinated are going to face the brunt of a community spread of the Delta variant on the island. With under twenty percent of the population fully vaccinated, one of the lowest in the Caribbean, Grenada is vulnerable to a massive community spread of the Delta variant.

The situation is further exacerbated by high levels of complacency, persons not wearing masks and adhering to other public health protocols. The convergence of these forces, large percentage of unvaccinated, high levels of complacency, and sizable numbers of children not eligible to take the vaccine present a frightening prospect for a massive community spread of the virus on the island.

A broken health system already bursting at its seams would be unable to deal with such a spread leading to hundreds of deaths and larger numbers suffering from, ‘long Covid’, a debilitating condition experienced by survivors of the virus.

Having seen what the Delta variant did to India and the current rapid surge in infections in America, one expected government to change course away from its complaisant, unfair and partisan approach to implementation of public health protocols and tighten up leading into the traditional August bank holiday weekend.

This was not the case as some promoters were allowed to have ‘carnival like’ events in settings conducive for virus spread.

Community revelers, already upset with government for taking away the carnival bank holiday, in defiance of government’s unfair policy took to the streets in the hundreds playing traditional mas, Jab Jab, shortnee and vecoux.

These mass gathering activities were perfect opportunities for super spreader events and now the island is facing a potential community spread of the deadly and highly contagious Delta variant.

It is no coincidence that the location of the potential super spreader events are in St. George’s North West and Gouyave. Police are often too timid to enforce the law in the former while the latter is well known for defiance and revelry.

This cunning virus has laid bare for all to see the negative impact of government’s partisan, complaisant and unfair enforcement of public health protocols. The police would have been wary to enforce the protocols in the North-west and stop the celebrations in Gouyave for fear of consequences.

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This is a repeat of the Sandals debacle last December when there was a virus outbreak in that facility. It was only a matter of time that this approach to governance would do us in and cause community spread. The writing was always on the wall.

The Minister’s attempt to impute blame on the Grenadian people, in his recent press briefing, by playing up the need for personal responsibility is misleading as it is deceptive. He should remember how successful the initial lockdown was when the entire population made tremendous sacrifices to ensure the virus didn’t spread after the first few imported infections.

It was only after the reopening began to be plagued with inconsistent policies, favouritism and unfair enforcement of public health protocols, people started to respond in defiance.

The Minister now has convenient amnesia lest he forget how many house parties were held and entertainment places in Lance Aux Pines and True Blue allowed to operate while the poor single mother of seven children barbeque stand was seized in the community where she resides in Golf Course, for breaking curfew trying to make a dollar to feed her children.

He forgot how the hard working humble shopkeeper in Mont Toute was arrested for keeping his community shop open during curfew.

It was this double standard that led people to play Jab Jab last year and the same practice pushed revelers to repeat this year again. How can you justify, Mr. Minister, allowing certain promoters to host theme parties in covered settings more conducive to virus spread while denying open air village jump up?

Why entertainment centers in Calliste, True Blue, and Lance Aux Pines were allowed to operate while shopkeepers in Willis, denied making a daily bread, by shutting down the open air revelry. Mr. Minister, don’t you think that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander?

Was it not you that rightfully spoke about vaccine mandates for frontline workers? Do you remember what your leader said on the vaccine mandate then turned around and gave implicit support to private business enforcing the mandate?

This partisan, complaisant, and deceptive approach to policy making and governance is what has brought us to the current situation.

How could the Minister forget the video of a restaurant on Grand Anse Beach that was opened well into curfew hours filled with Caucasian patrons? How did he forget the CMO’s response to a question from a journalist on whether there is a structure in place to undertake the vaccination campaign?

He said the structure for the ongoing children’s immunisation program will be used. How could such an arrangement be effective using a vaccine made in record time to protect adults from a novel virus?

This is unlike Barbados and Jamaica where separate structures were created to carry out the vaccination campaign which is relatively successful. Moreover, his Ministry failed to develop a comprehensive public education campaign to support the immunisation effort in spite of availability of a template from WHO to do so.

The systemic failures that resulted in Sandals outbreak last December, absence of decisive and astute leadership continued unabated to this day as is the double standards and favouritism that fueled the recent Jab Jab defiance.

Therefore, the blame lies squarely with the leadership and arrogant policy makers. If the proper tone and example were set by the decision makers the island would not be in the situation it is today, on the verge of a community spread by the deadly Delta variant.

The blood of every child who would get infected and die, every elderly person with comorbidities who succumb to the virus will be on their hands.

The gasp for that final breath and cries for help at the point of death will forever haunt all those who were responsible for this flawed, ineffective Covid-19 response campaign.

In times of crisis, real leaders charge citizens to act in service of the greater good, inspire people to overcome their collective fears and weaknesses, and triumph over adversity not focus on preserving power to achieve selfish political gains.

Special Correspondent