Will complaisant protocols and official imprudence result in a second wave of coronavirus infections on the island?
One doesn’t have to go far for the answer to the question as the statement from the Ministry of Health released by the Government Information Service (GIS) on December 30th and recent interview involving the Minister of Health, and acting Chief Medical Officer, by presenter Byron Campbell are very instructive.
In fact, one reader’s comment on the Ministry’s statement said it all, “this is typical of these folks who are in high office with too much power and very little common sense, any fool would have told them that this is going to happen from the day the curfew was cancelled”.
Prior to cancellation of the curfew the average daily confirmed cases for November into early December were very low under five persons and test positivity rate minimal at less than one percent. However both rates have now risen dramatically and unconfirmed reports are that most of these new cases are visitors to the island, many of whom are at hotels.
This may very well be the start of a second wave – the result of complaisant entry policies and official imprudence characterised by laxed local public health measures and weak enforcement by relevant authorities.
This narrative that variants are spreading all over the world and it was only a matter of time before it gets here reveals government’s imprudence and insensitivity to the high prevalence of comorbidities among the population, significant numbers of young children who are not eligible for vaccination, and the frail elderly.
It exposes government recklessness considering the absence of a properly functioning parallel system and the number of hospital beds available to treat Covid patients.
This narrative neglects to consider the two hundred souls that lost their lives during the first wave and how many could have been saved if better treatment and care were provided to those who were hospitalised or had to die at home because of unavailability of hospital beds.
It laid bare government’s disregard for the situation of high prevalence of comorbidities within the population and the likelihood of severe disease outcomes for this subgroup of persons.
This is Deja vu all over again, however there are no ‘jab jab’ to blame. Government has continued to play ‘Russian Roulette’ with the lives of Grenadians in an attempt to appease foreign investment interest in the tourism sector. Many Grenadians were not expecting the curfew to be cancelled and measures on gatherings relaxed when it was announced that they were content with the situation.
The people understood that relaxation of these measures in light of the fast approaching winter tourist season and raging infections in ‘source market countries’ would result in a second wave of infections on the island. This irresponsible decision of government was inviting disaster and asking for trouble.
Now that trouble is upon us – what is government doing to prevent a repeat of the colossal failure that took place at the General Hospital last September?
The data on treatment and care is there to be seen according to John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Centre, Grenada’s Case Fatality Ratio (CFR), and deaths per one hundred thousand are the highest in the English-speaking Caribbean, and among the highest in the world, along with Trinidad and Tobago.
Both countries have CFR of 3.2 percent compared with the other islands, St. Vincent, 1.4, St. Lucia, 2.2, Barbados, 0.9, Dominica, 0.7, Jamaica, 2.6 and Bahamas, 2.8. In addition, Grenada has the highest deaths per one hundred thousand at 178 except for the Bahamas 184 and Trinidad and Tobago at 210.
This is contrary to the false narrative of success peddled by the Minister of Health.
The question therefore is – what has the Ministry done to improve treatment and care at the three hospitals across the tri-island state? Countries like Israel with high levels of fully vaccinated among its population are experiencing significant increases in hospitalisations as it experiences it fourth wave driven by Omicron.
Since there is no Grenadian exceptionalism one could expect to see hospitalisations and deaths, during this second wave.
Yet very little was said about treatment and care during the press briefing. The questions should be asked – has the Ministry expanded the bed capacity dedicated to treating Covid-19 patients? Has the Ministry expanded its capacity to administer oxygen therapy, mechanical ventilation and intensive care since the first wave?
Rather than provide information on whether the Ministry took action to strengthen treatment and care, one of the biggest failure of the first wave, the Minister and his sycophant CMO were rather evasive, deceptive and misleading in their responses to questions posed by journalists.
From the question on whether Delta or Omicron is the dominant virus on the island to the one on cruise ship protocols, the responses from the Minister and CMO were deceptive and misleading.
It was comical to hear the Minister say that Omicron is the dominant variant based on six samples sent for genome sequencing, and the persons had no travel history. This implied that Omicron has been circulating for some time in the community.
The fact is, Mr. Minister, Omicron came to Grenada via a human host from one of the source market countries after the entry protocol was changed, cancellation of the curfew and relaxation of measures on gatherings facilitated the spread to communities.
The Minister’s use of a century-old long-standing maritime law on quarantine was misleading since countries like Puerto Rico have strengthened requirements for passengers disembarking on the island. Passengers wanting to go ashore in Puerto Rico must show a negative test result taken twenty four hours before disembarkment.
No matter how deceptive and misleading the Minister and the CMO tried to be, the fact is government’s complaisant policies and impudence are to be blamed for the two waves of infections on the island.
The current approach taken by the Minister would not work and rather than mislead the public he should request UWI to do some modelling to determine how long the current wave will last, the average daily confirmed cases at peak, and projected levels of hospitalisation and deaths.
This will give the Minister and his team some indications on the devastating impact of the current wave, although time has run out, it may allow them to take action that may save lives, in particular children whom Omicron appear to be affecting disproportionally.
The CMO appears to be passionately concerned about students getting back to ‘in person’ schooling yet he hasn’t taken any steps to introduce rapid antigen testing in schools now that students are due to return to the classroom on Monday.
It is one thing to make a passionate appeal for students’ return to the classroom, however it is another to put systems in place to protect them. Please be warned according to data from the United States, Omicron appears to be affecting the upper respiratory track which makes children more susceptible to infections.
I hope he has made provisions in the children’s ward to properly treat the significant number of children that are expected to fall sick.
Closer analysis of the responses given by both men in the press briefing suggests either they don’t have a full appreciation of what this island is about to face or are so arrogant and deceptive that they are disregarding reality that a joint spread of Omicron and Delta will cause a tsunami wave of infections that will devastate the island’s health infrastructure and wreak havoc on the population.
These two men haven’t listened to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist when she cautioned against taking Omicron lightly or the head of the organisation when he spoke of Omicron being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as Delta.
This government is about to make another terrible misjudgment that will result in scores of lives being lost including children, and will cause pain and anguish on the population all because of their imprudent behaviour and complaisant policies that place foreign investment interest in the tourism sector over the lives of Grenadians.