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When dance break we does know who pay

There is a saying, ‘when dance break you does know who pay’ now that Delta has broken out in communities across the island, we are seeing who can or can’t manage the emerging health crisis.

The latest failure was the testing debacle, on the weekend at the Spiceland Mall car park. After a litany of failures by government that resulted in a breach of public health defenses leading to the current wave of infections and the national address, one would expect them to step up to the plate and get it right.

Unfortunately, the comedy of errors and failures by those in authority continue unabated. This is quite frightening when one analyses the recent national address by the Prime Minister, and the exponential increase in hospitalisations and deaths on the island.

Although it was a better delivered speech than previous it was again uninspiring and failed to galvanise the nation to action against Covid-19. The measures outlined appear to have been selected based on economic considerations rather than information from contact tracing as to the main drivers of virus spread. How come construction was allowed to continue and salons closed is perplexing to me.

It is apparent that selection of the measures were not driven by science and certain lobby groups exerted pressure on decision makers to have particular activities remain open.

According to reports out of Jamaica and St. Lucia, public buses and community bars are the main drivers of spread of the virus. I suspect this is the same for Grenada. Indications coming from many of the recently confirmed cases point to public transport as a possible source of transmission, while many community bars continue to attract gatherings as patrons congregate to buy and drink alcohol.

If the aim is to curb spread of the virus the measures outlined would not be effective since the activities that may be contributing most to the spread remain unaffected. There was no announcement of a reduction in the number of persons on public buses and no closing of bars, yet activities where protocols could be strictly enforced were affected.

One understands the need for some level of economic activity during this time, however decisions should be more thoughtful and driven by science, with that being said, the speech failed to properly address important areas such as capacity to treat infected patients as well as vaccinations.

His government, having failed to expand treatment facilities and increase the number of hospital beds dedicated to Covid-19 patients, one would think as the island began to experience its first encounter with community spread of the virus, treatment and care of patients would be a top priority.

However, the national address didn’t deal with that critically important matter. As the number of persons requiring hospitalisation exceeded the eighteen bed capacity, dedicated to Covid-19 patients, hospital authorities have to rush and make space for the expected surge of cases in the coming days.

The island’s main hospital already bursting at its seam in normal times would not be able to handle the dramatic increase in Covid-19 patients as operations at the facility are already compromised, putting all patients and staff at risk.

There have been reports that some doctors, nurses and ancillary staff are infected as well putting further pressure on operations at the facility. To do a national address of around forty five minutes related to Covid-19 and not speak to treatment and care of infected patients shows the level of compassion and love those in high authority have for the plight of the afflicted.

The words of Cornel West Philosopher and Civil Rights activist continue to resonate: ‘You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people, if you don’t serve the people’. This is the kind of leadership that is playing out in Grenada at the moment and hundreds more persons would die, during this wave of infections, that should not have to.

The speech assumes that Delta is similar to the original Alpha variant and the measures outlined would stop spread of the virus as was done last year. However Delta is a different kettle of fish, much more contagious than the original Covid-19 virus.

One person infected with Delta infects eight persons on average compared with two persons by the Alpha virus. The situation is quite different now and the only effective tool against Delta is vaccination. The speech appears to have avoided the elephant in the room all together since little mention was made of it.

The Prime Minister seems content on passing the buck to employers rather than have the State play a leading role in vaccine mandates.

However, is this the best approach to getting more persons vaccinated and reaching herd immunity? Some employers are urging government to require mandatory vaccinations for targeted high risk workers whose failure to get vaccinated can compromise public health defences.

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The time has come for serious dialogue with stakeholders especially after the legal brief entitled, Legal Dimensions of Mandatory/Compulsory Requirements for Covid-19 Vaccinations, August 2021 has been prepared for OECS leaders suggesting the islands constitutions do make provisions for vaccine mandates.

The time is right for the Prime Minister to seriously consider mandatory vaccination for frontline workers, public officers and school children ages twelve to seventeen.

Stringent measures alone would not stop the spread of Delta variant and it badly damages the economy putting further pressure on the poor and vulnerable. The most effective way out of this calamity is vaccination and achieving herd immunity as soon as possible.

The Prime Minister must realise that Delta is ten times more contagious and deadlier than the original virus; having seen how this virus has spread throughout the country like wildfire and the exponential increase in hospitalisation and deaths, he must act now.

It is amazing how fast the virus has moved through the ranks of the police force, how many nurses and public servants are affected as well. This suggests most police and public servants are not vaccinated. That being said, another important omission from the speech is the matter of testing and surveillance.

With the collapse of contact tracing, extensive random testing in Communities islandwide is the only way to get a handle on the spread of Delta. Therefore, it was rather surprising the national address made little mention of this important tool in the toolbox used to fight Covid-19.

Since May of last year calls were made for government to ramp up testing across the island and introduce geographic information systems software to undertake public health surveillance. The calls fell on deaf ears as was the suggestion by Franka Bernardine to use Mirabeau Hospital as a dedicated Covid facility to treat patients, and the plea to use the template given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to develop effective messaging to counter the arguments put forward by anti-vaxxers and vaccine hesitants.

Now the moment of truth is here, you are calling for unity and working together. Most people would remember what happened after a similar call was made following passage of hurricane Ivan over the island.

This is the second speech in three weeks where the Prime Minister fails to own the crisis, take responsibility for the failures in managing the fight against Covid-19 and hold those entrusted with the task to manage accountable.

When images of Afghans rushing the airport in Kabul reached America, President Biden quickly owned the fiasco, said the buck stops with him and accepted blame, although arrangements for the Afghan withdrawal were done under President Donald Trump.

That is leadership, however it appears the Prime Minister doesn’t understand that having presided over a litany of failures and mismanagement of the Covid-19 campaign that are now having deleterious effects on the population, including hospitalisations and deaths, one would expect him to be contrite. Unfortunately, this was not to be as the speech lacked compassion and atonement.

Considering one person infected with Delta is likely to infect eight others, the number of police officers afflicted, and the total active cases on the island, there could be well over eight thousand persons walking with this virus that is cunning and has an uncanny way of exposing institutional weakness, incompetence, and mismanagement.

As family members expose lack of proper care and treatment of their loved ones on social media, and we listen to the impromptu manner in which additional bed space are being created at the General Hospital, the dysfunctional operations and mismanagement at the island’s main health facility is laid bare for all to see.

When one juxtaposes the litany of earlier failures on the current ones it is easy to see who can’t manage a rum shop much less this crisis. Sometimes your own words have a funny way of coming back to haunt you. Indeed, when dance break we does know who pay.

However, what is more shameful and despicable are allegations surrounding the proposed purchase of generators at the island’s sole power generation company. In the midst of a dramatically increasing health crisis, hospitalisations, and deaths, there are those who would display greed and arrogance similar to the fictional Trinidadian folk character the ‘Midnight Robber’ who waylay to brandished weapons and used spellbinding words to extract from revelers.

I recall the words of Mwai Kibaki, leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed.

Special Correspondent