The saying, ‘like a thief in the midnight’ means an occurrence, person or a disease appear swiftly, suddenly or stealthily without warning. However, in reality this is not normally so since the thief usually places the property under surveillance looking for weaknesses in defence and the disease will give warning through early sporadic infections.
The recent intense spread of the Rhino virus, causing flu symptoms on the island should be a wake-up call for public health authorities, since it shows up a serious weakness in the population’s constitutive defence to infectious disease.
After observing the level of complacency and the slow up take of the AstraZeneca vaccine on the island, I have an eerie feeling that a Covid-19 outbreak may not be far off. This cunning virus may already be probing our constitutive defences which is proven to be weak by the intense spread of the Rhino virus throughout the island.
What compounds the problem is the persistent arrogance by both the Minister of Health and his CMO who, ‘don’t know that they don’t know’, according to Donald Rumsfeld, former US Secretary of State, how to be effective messengers. As a result, these two men are not helping the cause to get people to take the vaccine.
Additionally, the leader appears to be side-tracked by other issues and not fully focused on the task at hand with regards to Covid-19. He is badly distracted and can’t see what is unfolding on the island and around the world.
It is said, ‘when your neighbour’s house is on fire wet yours,’ one of the closest countries to Grenada is Trinidad and Tobago currently experiencing exponential coronavirus spread.
Unfortunately, our leader seem not to know, if or when to tighten up because he is principally concerned with political preservation, not wanting to take tough decisions in the best interest of the country.
As the island continues to tread along the path of complacency and high levels of vaccine hesitancy, the threat from new variants of the coronavirus are becoming greater as the summer and winter tourist seasons approach.
The dreaded Brazilian strain, P1, is just over one hundred miles away in neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago, the infectious UK strain, B117, has been identified in Jamaica and St. Lucia, and the highly contagious and deadly Indian variant, B 1617, is fast spreading in the UK becoming a dominant strain and will soon do the same in the United States.
Both the UK and USA are home to very large expatriate Indian populations. These countries are also major source markets for tourists to the island.
However, because vaccinations have gone very well in those two source markets with over forty percent of their adult populations fully immunised, prospective tourists from these countries are more selective in their vaccination choices, preferring destinations that have high rates of vaccinations.
Herein lies a dilemma for Grenada in spite of having no known cases of Covid-19 on the island some countries such as the UK are wary of placing the island on relaxed entry requirement because of the low rate of vaccination.
There may be similar entry requirements instituted in the US, in the near future, as the numbers of fully vaccinated in that country continue to increase closer to population immunity. This could be devastating to the island’s tourism sector and delay economic recovery. It is not far fetch to think that St. George’s University could reduce the number of students it allow to return to in-person teaching or worst case extend the current postponement of classes.
The island is at a critical juncture and the leader needs to step up and be astute and decisive in his leadership of the nation. The island is vulnerable to a spread of one of the variants of Covid-19 because of low levels of vaccinations and widespread complacency. This could also result in a possible delay in economic recovery, as tourists selects destinations with high vaccine up take.
With this in mind, why is the government not treating vaccine hesitancy and complacency with the degree of national urgency they deserve? Both of them are a clear and present danger to the population and economy?
Is it because the Minister and his CMO are too arrogant and self-righteous to accept that they are toxic with certain sections of the population and can’t be effective messengers in the fight to win the hearts and minds of vaccine skeptics and hesitants?
Are they unwilling to hire capability to produce and disseminate proper messaging to address the varied concerns of hesitants? What is holding them back? Why are they not using the template and document, Behaviourial Consideration for Uptake and Acceptance of Covid-19 Vaccines provided by WHO to produced messaging?
Why are they not soliciting help from groups that can influence uptake of vaccines highlighted in the same document by WHO and referred to by Grenadian born communications specialist Kellon Bubb as opinion makers?
Why these two characters continuing the buffoonery attempt to cajole people with this get vaccinated before vaccine expire message, believing the most effective way to counter vaccine hesitancy is to ridicule, threaten and coerce people into taking the vaccine?
Throughout history in times of national crisis and challenges, a true leader rises to the occasion and rally the collective will of a nation to overcome adversity and vanquish the enemy. Presently, Grenada is facing two national challenges and a deadly enemy that could decimate its population. Instead of rising to the fore to rally the nation, the leader is engaged in cat fights and dog-whistle with ‘white boys’ that he courted and whine and dined with earlier.
This is the time to show his mettle and demonstrate decisive and astute leadership, however the leader appears to be failing and unsure if or when to tighten up to protect the country from a Covid-19 onslaught.
Contrary to this notion of a strong leader, he is too weak to swallow his pride and improve his relationship with healthcare workers and teachers. Likewise, allow the police to step up enforcement of public health protocols without interference. He is unable to take decisive action to curb public defiance and clamp down on public health law breakers for fear of losing support.
Finally, he is not astute to position the economy during the down time to benefit from the endless new possibilities that would emerge during the post pandemic global recovery.
Obsessed with preserving power, the leader is unable to see how continued complacency and high levels of vaccine hesitancy are not only putting the population at risk but also threatening the economic recovery from the pandemic induced recession.
Should the island experience a virus spread in the near future, complacency and vaccine hesitancy would not be the only reason for the outbreak. The leader would have failed to lead, to rally the nation to have his Winston Churchill moment and galvanise the nation in the fight against Covid-19.
Just as he would have failed to hold the Minister accountable for lack of a concerted effort to address the problem of vaccine hesitancy.
Should Covid-19 enter the island, ‘as a thief in the midnight’, the leader and his minions would be to blame for each life lost, each child’s educational future dashed away, and each business that goes under because they failed to lead in times of crisis.
When historians interrogate the actions of the leader during the pandemic his indecisiveness, lack of empathy and care for sections of the population, distracted leadership concerned only with political preservation will be considered an indelible stain on his legacy.
Let’s all hope and pray Covid-19 doesn’t revisit the island like a thief in the midnight.