The New Today

Letters

The coronavirus pandemic

I am compelled to share some thinking with our people as a gross dereliction of responsibility for the life and welfare of our people here in Grenada has descended. Indeed, like with the aid of an evil Zeitgeist we have unwittingly conspired in a plan to not apply our minds to the increasing danger that has settled among us.

When there were 25 cases and one death in our population we fell into a panic and rightly so implemented measures that effectively restrained the deadly virus from taking more lives and increasing infections.

Our health system universally known for its fragility remained unexposed to circumstances that would cause it to crash. Effective measures like long quarantine periods, strict border restrictions and limited entries from certain jurisdictions worked to maintain a status quo of safe health for our 120,000 residents.

All around us in the region and beyond Corona ravaged lives as we remained cocooned in our safe zone but 90 miles away, the Delta variant swung its deadly arc sweeping from one precious life to the next – my dear Sister one of the fallen.

It is important to separate roles at this point: ordinary citizens do not make and enforce national policy. In our current system of governance those we elect to operate the country have that billet that authority to plan a direction for us that is prudent and wise.

It is asking a lot of ordinary men and women who are essentially untrained with no experience for the enormous tasks they undertake as ministers of government.

In particular against the backdrop of a global health pandemic the next minds were expected to be marshaled to guide our small country through this extremely dangerous period. I had remarked previously elsewhere how cynical it was to appoint a chain smoking non-medical expert as our Health Minister when the times demanded a qualified and fit person for that role.

Last year the doctors were in charge and a minor role was given to that minister while we navigated through the crisis. And then something happened. In or around May the idea of fully reopening the country and reducing quarantine period began to surface and many persons, this writer among them, warned of the dangers.

The response from the authorities was to sideline the medical professionals and give a more prominent policy role to the misnamed Minister of Health for whom personally his own health was not his personal priority. At news briefings we began to see less of the experts and for reasons that are not disclosed the Chief medical expert a seeming straight shooter was replaced with a supplicant.

The new man seemed to ape the Health Minister in every expression. The expert was no longer in charge. There came before us the brash bejeweled minister predicting multiple deaths in-country like he was describing the discarded models of worn Toyota motor vehicles unfit for public use.

So for 17 months and particularly from May to August the person in charge of health policy in Grenada did nothing to prepare for the coming doom.

By June and July a narrative of livelihood over life predominated the policy conversation. No plans for increasing hospital capacity or alternate site for moderate or severe patients, no increased supplementary budget for health care, no assembling of non-traditional medical experts – nothing.

Livelihood over life. And then without any national conversation or concern for its implications the quarantine period was recklessly shortened, hotels reopened and a full invitation to Corona and her deadly variants to alight on the knowingly vulnerable Spice Island. Livelihood over life. But who’s livelihood over which lives?

This was made clear last year when the authorities opened the treasury and gave over $20 million dollars to the hospitality sector. How much for health care and its vulnerable infrastructure? Now there are most of you who say let’s pray to God for relief and this cannot be understated as insane madness.

I recall when the NDC government led by an ambassador and the then Prime Minister went to a shoreline somewhere in the eastern part of the island to pray to God to save us from the ravages of climate change. The response from that God is now evident: “You created climate change and you also created the conditions where corona has infected 50,000 Spice Landers, how I get in that!”

Earlier this week a government minister declared that the Cabinet will set aside two days for prayer and spiritual something. Is there anyone else besides this writer running ahead to stop the headless Boar of stupidity from overtaking us in the name of Prayer and worship?

There was a time when thinking people believed the world was flat. The few who dared to challenge that canard were then overtaken, because of their success, by marauders and invaders leaving in their wake 500 years of genocide slavery and pillage along with a healthy dose of callous religious orthodoxy.

Holy Book thumpers continue to pervade our company while all around us as back then as now, death lurks and settles. Presently, the owners of hotels and St. George’s University appear to be setting policy direction and determining how many of us will live and die.

SGU touts its collaboration with leading hospitals in the US. Why is it allowed to bring students back here in the midst of an insolvable Corona, a variant immune to the vaccines?

Hotels useful as temporary sites for COVID patients host unmasked visitors mingling with local workers returning to their tiny crowded homes. We know why in both cases: their livelihood trumps our life. We cannot remain in a stupor and cede our future to those who care more about their pocketbooks.

Those who say they are leaders especially those in the church communities must get off their knees and say something to force a different direction. Two last things for now. The Royal Grenada Police Force is bending and the leaders there are pushing back so it will not break. These brave resilient women and men of our police force work in difficult conditions.

There is no supplemental budget to improve their barracks, no hazardous pay even as they come face to face with the public at total risk to their personal safety, no compensatory safety net to their family when they die in the line of duty charged with enforcing COVID regulations.

They are tossed out to fend for themselves and when they die as some very good ones have recently, no concern other than expressions of regarded sympathy for their destitute families and years of committed service.

Finally, we are informed that a Death Panel has been conceived by no less than the Health Minister who says with a straight face, “I hope it never comes to that”. I am certain that the Christian and other Gods have cocked their collective ears to listen to the response of their followers in Grenada and must be in disbelief that those fillers are agreeable to give over their precious life and the decision of who lives and who dies to these mortals.

The same mortals who could not apply their minds and imagination to finding temporary alternate sites for sick people are cherry-picking who gets medical treatment and who does not.

We are either in national shock or we need all as a nation to be shocked into action against the plan underway before our very eyes for selecting who gets cremated and who does not. Friends, there are about 32,000 households in Grenada. The average size of a home is 1200 sq. ft. 2 bedrooms and 5 occupants.

Our people were put into curfew this weekend one on top the other. Stay indoors, we are told as some of those family members are quarantined likely in the same home. Under normal conditions two people share the same bed, some on a makeshift couch others on the floor.

Our Health Minister will not know this although he represented River Road and Darbeau because his entire life was privileged in the hamlet of Lance Aux Pines. I cannot plead to anyone not a Prime Minister or a Priest but to our collective conscience.

If you are among those with prayer in your tool kit to emerge with life from this pandemic kindly follow the arrow to the room marked “deranged’. You will find in that same room our Health Minister, the hotel owners and their sycophants and a long list of enablers who have abandoned their responsibility to lead with compassion.

I am not one to throw up my arms in despair not when the history of human experience teaches that as a collective with doing no harm as our common goal we can solve all of the seemingly intractable crises confronting us.

The Landlord