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This is the time for tough decisions to save lives and livelihoods

Grenada is on a downward spiral to a cataclysmic health crisis the likes of which we have never seen nor experienced. In this situation, one would think those empowered by the people to lead the country will rise to the challenge and do so. By all indications this is not the case as the comedy of errors and absence of decisive leadership continues unabated.

The recent interview of the Prime Minister by social media personality Mikey Hutchinson was quite revealing and it came on the heels of an address to the nation that could be described as bland, lacking compassion and atonement.

Both the national address and interview reveal a leader unwilling to own his administration’s failures, cares little about human suffering, more concerned with financial consideration with a punitive mindset against his people for not taking the vaccine and engaged in mass gatherings over the August weekend. He appears out of touch and devoid of what is happening in the campaign against Covid.

The lack of contrition and atonement for mismanagement of the battle against Covid is evident in the leader’s recent utterances. This is quite alarming since in times of national grief and crisis the leader must show empathy and be able to console the nation.

However, the attitude is more like ‘vaccines are made available and you all not taking it so stand the consequences’, there is nothing that can be done.

The leader’s demeanour suggests he absolved himself from all blame and has given up, resigned to whatever eventuality that may arise. This is disheartening because in times of crisis the leader is expected to lead.

Also decisions by the government may have contributed to the crisis. Didn’t the leader spoke about sanctioned, ‘carnival like activities’ by some promoters leading up to the traditional August holiday weekend? Wasn’t the government who approved these activities supposedly for fully vaccinated patrons only?

Wasn’t it the government who changed the entry protocol from seven days to two days quarantine? Why did the government not take action after confirmed case number one hundred and seventy was identified or when two more visitors who entered the island with a negative PCR test and on departure days after tested positive? These are not the fault of the unvaccinated or vaccine hesitant, this is on the decision makers.

With the failure of his government to take immediate action when these red flags were raised the leader should not be displaying this attitude. It is a similar situation with the lackluster approach to strategic random testing and vaccinations. If the arrogant CMO on seeing repeated instances of persons arriving on the island negative for Covid and days later leaving positive had a proper geographic information system software that could overlay on infection and contact tracing data he would have been able to stem the current outbreak with targeted mass testing.

Likewise, why wasn’t the guidelines and template given to member countries by the World Health Organisation (WHO) not used to prepare a comprehensive communications plan to counter the vexing problem of vaccine hesitancy.

This ‘I told you so’ attitude and outright arrogance is not helping the cause. I am baffled by the consistency of this attitude among the leader and his minions in light of the glaring failures on their part.

On a recent morning television program the minister in an attempt to respond to a caller’s comments on quarantine period for visitors to the island sounded like an ignoramus trying to compare other countries with the same two days quarantine.

What he failed to understand is that most of these countries, in particular, those more advanced ones are way ahead of Grenada in terms of percentage of the population vaccinated. The smaller countries like St. Lucia and Jamaica that went ahead and reduced the quarantine period from seven to two days are all facing intense community spread like us here in Grenada.

Before reducing the quarantine period to two days a proper risk benefit analysis should have been done to determine if it was worth it. The island was going so well after, the Sandals debacle, with very low Covid infections, no hospitalisations for many months and one death leading up to July.

Early June there begun to have pop up community jump up in several villages and jab jab city lime hosted by a leading jab promoter and known supporter of the government became a staple on Sundays. These mass gatherings though not approved by government was tolerated as they continued for many Sundays. No Covid outbreak or increase in infections occurred during that time.

However, on July fifth came the announcement of confirmed case number one hundred and seventy who entered the island on July twenty seventh with a negative PCR test result and on leaving the island on August third tested positive.

Two more similar cases were confirmed on August fourteenth. These successive confirmations should have been a wake-up call for the CMO and Minister and by extension government yet they failed to act.

However, when water became more than flour after the house party in Molinere those in authority begun to panic. A good disease detective, epidemiologist, would have sprung into action using contact tracing information, geographic information systems software and knowledge of the incubation period of the virus to implement targeted mass testing immediately.

Nothing was done other than the usual display of arrogance and when water became more than flour panic set in. The piecemeal measures announced during the Prime Minister’s first speech in August was too little too late. The horse had already bolted from the stable.

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A returning Grenadian or St. George’s University Student who either came into the island with a fake vaccination card or fully vaccinated got infected a day or two before travel, presented a negative PCR test result on arrival, left quarantine after two days and began to transmit virus after six to seven days of incubation and on preparation for departure tested positive.

Just like the space shuttle Challenger disaster, a weakness in the O rings resulted in the explosion of the external fuel tanks which was facilitated by a dysfunctional management culture at NASA, so too a breach in entry protocol caused the virus to enter Grenada, however the ‘eat ah food’ mentality and political patronage, a hallmark of this administration, was the enabler.

Where are the greedy promoters that were given permission to host carnival like activities for vaccinated patrons, many of them returning nationals? The deaths of Brienna, Anderson, Mikey, Weeks, ASP Bryon Clyne and the other victims – forty three and counting, are on the hands of the Leader, Minister of Health, CMO and by extension Cabinet.

So please don’t try to lay blame on the jab jab or the Grenadian people. The leader must stop at once this ” I told you so demeanour’ and lead by making wise and thoughtful decisions in a timely manner to navigate the country out of the health storm and avoid further calamity.

It is not about your personal feelings on vaccine mandate, you don’t have absolute authority to impose your feelings over this land, so make the tough decision to enact targeted vaccine mandates that would prevent hurricane Covid-19 from destroying the island.

The limited restrictions on movements and adherence to normal protocols would not cut it, Delta is much too contagious, there is still a high level of personal irresponsibility and the health system has virtually collapsed. Even in the midst of this hurricane, vaccine uptick is not where it should be.

However, targeted vaccine mandates for high risk activities would go a long way to help the island to achieve herd immunity. At present based on figures from the Ministry of Health, twenty thousand persons are fully vaccinated – this can be moved to thirty thousand in another two to three weeks if all those with one shot return for their second on time.

At the current rate of vaccination it could be well into next year the island will reach herd immunity. However, with Delta variant stampeding across the land and Mu, the newest variant of interest, on our doorstep in St. Vincent there is no telling of the potential catastrophe that may face us.

Vaccine mandates could get us to herd immunity faster and avert a second more deadly wave than the one we are currently facing. The leader must put aside his feelings and political preservation, and act to save lives. The leader must put aside his feelings and be astute and look beyond the horizon at what could potentially be lurking out there and pre-empt disaster by enacting limited vaccine mandates as the legal experts have said our constitution provides for it.

If he continues to resist then business leaders and those with considerable investments on the island must come together and force his hand much like was done during the nineteen seventy three crisis for the only way out of this disaster now is vaccination.

The two arrogant ignoramus entrusted with the task of leading the fight against Covid-19 must temper their utterances and take decisive action to immediately improve treatment and care for those hospitalised with Covid, hire retired nurses and work with SGU and other stakeholders to revamp and strengthen mass testing.

Please, making it more efficient and effective, and put together a team of communications specialist both at home and abroad to embark on an intense public campaign to support the vaccination effort.

It is bad enough to be an ignoramus, however it is even worst to be so arrogant to not see that proper treatment and care for Covid patients at the hospital is terribly lacking, and the testing and vaccination drive are in total disarray. Rather than continue to display utter contempt for Grenadians step up to the plate and do what is right to save lives, in light of your repeated past failures.

The Prime Ministers of Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago have already allude to this; the governments of Guyana, Antigua and St. Vincent have gone further and amend regulations for vaccine mandates.

This apparent illusion that a reversal of the situation could be just weeks away is just that, because we have not seen the infection peak as yet and how long the island stays at the crest will be determined by how effective is testing and surveillance, containment measures and vaccinations.

This wave is not going to end anytime soon, so if the leader is counting on a decline in infections and a return to pre-community spread tourism levels he is bonkers. Additionally, the island is not going to be taken off the red list if the vaccination levels are not at satisfactory to international stakeholders. The time for decisive leadership is now – let’s see how the leader responds.

Special Correspondent