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The chicken has finally come home to roost

The chickens have come home to roost after the litany of failures and instances of double standards Grenada is now in the throes of an intensifying community spread of the deadly Delta variant.

After listening to the two men charged with the responsibility of leading the fight against the virus I am terrible concerned with the knee jerk response to the presence of Delta on the island as it can wreak havoc and kill hundreds more than is expected as a consequence of the poor handling of the campaign.

This virus is not endemic to Grenada and had to be imported from abroad. From all indications it was not in circulation on the island prior to June. Any disease detective that worth his or her salt would conclude, based on available evidence, Delta began to circulate around late July. This coincided with the influx of visitors around that time leading into the traditional August Emancipation weekend.

Patient zero was either legitimately fully vaccinated or had a fake vaccination card and most likely was infected a day or two before travel to Grenada. On arrival patient zero’s viral load was too low for the PCR test at the airport to detect the virus and after the second day in quarantine was allowed to go free into the community.

Patient zero on leaving quarantine, a few days later, went to the village rum shop, drank and eat oil down with childhood friends, no one wore a mask during that time.

Later in the evening patient zero went to a boat cruise with some friends who traveled on the same flight down to Grenada. On the cruise they met and mingled with schoolmates and other friends living on the island. They danced and drank the night away and none of them wore a mask on the cruise.

Patient zero and friends on the cruise were given an impromptu invite to a house party already in progress in a community where authorities would be hard pressed to enforce public health protocol. They all went to the party which had over sixty persons in attendance.

Patient zero and friends partied into the night jamming to the sweet jab jab beat, hands in the air asking, ‘whey mehshell’ chanting who take ‘mehshell’. No one wore a mask in that party attended by soca artists and many regulars on the local party scene.

A few days after the house party persons started experiencing flu like symptoms and having difficulty breathing. This is a likely scenario that resulted in circulation of the deadly and highly contagious Delta variant across the island.

The Delta variant slipped through public health defenses on the airport because of an entry protocol that is complaisant to the tourism sector and overlooked the science which says the incubation period for the virus is five to seven days, however it can be up to fourteen days.

The protocol failed to consider vaccinated persons can get infected and spread the virus. Having slipped through public health defenses inside its host, patient zero, the virus found a lax local enforcement environment, government double standards, influenced by nepotism and partisan politics, high levels of complacency and public defiance that is conducive to its spread.

With glee Delta begun to quietly circulate in communities across the island after infecting patrons at the boat cruise and house party.

The virus used these patrons as vessels to transport it to communities, work places and homes, now Delta is spreading like wildfire throughout the island.

In response, those entrusted with the task of protecting the nation in the fight against the virus panicked and are now adopting a ‘knee jerk reaction’ to the rapidly increasing health crisis rather than give thoughtful consideration to the situation and develop a comprehensive plan to reverse the situation.

The first consideration that should be given is to extend the two days quarantine back to seven days. Although the CMO thinks it doesn’t matter the virus is already here you don’t want to compound the problem by having more fully vaccinated infected persons breach entry protocols and cause further virus spread on the island.

Since the virus is in all parishes on the island and positivity rate is now ten percent and rising, there is a need for a concerted effort to stop the spread by regulating how people move and gather. Considering it is agreed that lockdowns can damage the economy, there is a need for more targeted interventions that would allow the economy to still function.

Although, six feet social distancing can’t be implemented on a bus, reduction in number of persons in a row along with strict enforcement of mask mandate will reduce the risk of getting infected while commuting on public transport. In addition, windows on all buses should remain open when possible to increase ventilation and airflow through the bus while operating.

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Consideration should be given to having restaurants with outdoor dining capacity operate a service to fully vaccinated persons. Restaurants with indoor air-conditioned dining should operate takeout services only. All bars should be closed for the next two weeks and the sale of alcohol curtailed to avoid small gatherings at bars and community shops.

All businesses should revert to strict enforcement of mask mandates and social distancing when operating and use of central air-conditioning curtailed when possible.

The time has come for government to introduce vaccine mandates for frontline workers, public officers, and school children twelve to seventeen years old. The Delta virus is more deadly and equally contagious as measles and mumps, both have vaccine mandates to attend school.

Government must immediately step up mass testing to determine the true extent of the virus spread since contact tracing has already become ineffective because of the number of confirmed cases.

Rather than spend forty million on debushing, government must set aside ten million to employ recently retired nurses to undertake the mass testing effort. It was troubling to hear the CMO said he doesn’t have personnel and resources to undertake mass testing. With the number of confirmed cases rapidly rising, mass testing is critical to getting a handle on the situation.

The time is also right for a public education blitz to get persons to take the vaccine. A well thought out concerted effort, working with a cross section of social partners and other stakeholders should be implemented using various social media platforms to get the message across. Government must spear no resources and effort in doing so.

The situation is dire and will become catastrophic if government continues its knee jerk reaction to this evolving health crisis. Government, having failed to significantly expand the number of beds and treatment centres to treat Covid-19 patients during the last eighteen months, the onus is on them to step up to the plate and save lives.

The Delta variant will cause the already fragile health system to collapse, patients will have to lie in hallways and car parks of hospitals and clinics, the limited number of doctors and nurses will quickly become overwhelmed and persons will be left to die without getting proper treatment.

Grenada is being confronted by a worst case scenario for which it has neither prepared for or has the resources to deal with it.

Caught with its pants down, a crumbling health sector and low level of vaccinated, government must now act to avoid what happened in neighbouring Trinidad and is now occurring in Jamaica with hospitals inundated and patients dying in hallways and car parks.

The challenge is much greater for Grenada, both countries have more hospital beds dedicated to Covid patients – well over a thousand in Trinidad and nine hundred in Jamaica. Both countries have larger and better equipped health facilities, the University Hospital in Jamaica is the largest in the English-speaking Caribbean while Mt Hope in Trinidad, one of the most modern yet both countries were unable to deal with the flood of patients caused by Covid-19 and hundreds more persons died than should have.

It was jaw dropping to hear the Medical Director here said eighteen beds are being prepared for Covid patients with twenty eight ventilators available, compare this to St. Lucia which has a chest hospital with a hundred and twenty bed capacity dedicated to treat patients and additional surge capacity on the ready should more persons require hospitalisation.

The government here in Grenada did nothing to increase the number of hospital beds dedicated to treating Covid-19 patients beyond the ten beds that were initially prepared after the first outbreak early in the pandemic yet they came up with a flawed campaign, with complaisant protocols and double standards in enforcement of public health regulations, to protect the population against the virus.

What a gross dereliction of duty that will now result in hundreds of deaths and long term health complications. The Delta variant will lay bare the failures of the government as the chicken has now come home to roost.

My advice to Grenadians is to protect yourself and family by getting vaccinated, wear a mask when in public at all times and sanitise your hands regularly for the images of patients lying on hospital floors, sick like a dog, in Jamaica, families dying by the threes and fours, scores of doctors, nurses and policemen deceased in Trinidad and Tobago as a result of Covid-19 will soon be a reality here in Grenada.

Special Correspondent