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George Worme Clears the Air

Dr. Shawn Charles, the acting CMO, Tourism Minister Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen who gave conflicting information to Parliament on the Covid-19 Protocols

…to intentionally or otherwise present the impression, or for you to allow the impression to be presented that I do not wish to comply with the Protocols is not only misleading, unjust and unfair, but it brings into question, the true intention of the misinformation.

Grenadian journalist George Worme has been forced to clear the air in the wake of misleading information given in Parliament Wednesday by the island’s Tourism Minister, Dr. Clarice Modeste- Curwen on issues surrounding his return to the island over the weekend from the United States.

The female MP from St Mark sought to give the impression that Worme was demanding that he be allowed to go home and not be put in a government approved facility or government-controlled facility to be quarantined as a protective measure against COVID-19.

The journalist was prevented from going to his home and into self- imposed quarantine by Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Shawn Charles after a stand-off at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) which lasted for just over 5 hours on Sunday.

Worme denied the assertion made by Minister Modeste-Curwen and pointed to an application that he had made in keeping with government’s own Home Quarantine Application Form which is part of its Covid-19 Protocols as published on the Government website.

The journalist said that he had complied with All Protocols as published on the Government website and brushed aside the Minister’s version of events as quite misleading.

“My Home Quarantine Application Form was submitted to the Ministry of Health days before my arrival at MBIA on Sunday. The Home Quarantine Application Form is there for all Returning Grenadians and not only for a chosen few,” he said.

“Madam Minister, you are misleading the Nation with your Statement made in Parliament that I did not want to go into Quarantine. You chose not to mention the fact that there is in existence for returning Grenadians a Home Quarantine Application Form as part of your Protocol,” he added.

As a public service, Worme has decided to release the full text of his letter sent to CMO Dr. Shawn Charles on the issue:

August 11th, 2020

Dr Shawn Charles
Acting Chief Medical Officer
Ministry of Health
Botanical Gardens
St. George’s

Compliance with COVID-19 protocols

Dear Dr. Charles,

I present compliments to you and the Staff of the Ministry of Health and refer to the subject at caption.

There appears to be a misconception that I do not wish to comply with the Ministry’s published protocols for incoming passengers or, that I have sought an exemption to the aforementioned protocols. As you are well aware, this could not be further from the truth. My commitment to full adherence of the Ministry’s published protocols is chronicled below, in order to contribute to enlightened and responsible commentary by the Ministry.

On July 14th 2020 the Ministry of Health (“the Ministry”) via Facebook publicly made available the “Passenger Health Declaration Form” and the “Passenger Home Quarantine Application Form” for download and sharing [Exhibit A1].

On July 21st 2020, the Ministry also shared via its Facebook page the link to the “Current Travel Health Declaration Forms” [Exhibit A2].

The requirements as per the Ministry’s published protocols available on the official COVID-19 website as at 9th August 2020 and designated “Entering Grenada – A Travelers Guide” (hereinafter referred to as “Incoming Passengers Protocols”) are summarised on Page 3 [Exhibit A3]. The details of which are as follows:

HEALTH DECLARATION: “You must complete and submit the Government of Grenada’s Health Declaration form prior to departure.”

On August 6th, 2020 at 10:26 AM, the following forms were submitted to the Ministry of Health via email to [email protected] as required on the forms.

  • International Passenger Health Declaration Form, and
  • Incoming Passenger Home Quarantine Application

Given the requirement that self-quarantine facilities must be evaluated and approved by the Ministry and my imminent arrival on Sunday 9th August 2020 we telephoned the Ministry regarding my Incoming Passenger Home Quarantine Application after the forms were submitted.

During this telephone conversation we were advised that the individual dealing with the forms would not be in the office and there was no one else we could speak with regarding the forms and that we should call back the next day (Friday, 7th August).

I have attached a copy of the email sent on August 6th along with a copy of the above-mentioned forms in full compliance with this requirement. [Exhibit B1].

Both forms remain available for download on the Ministry’s official COVID-19 website: https://covid19.gov.gd/required-incoming-passenger-forms.

CONTACT TRACING: “You are required to download the Government of Grenada’s Contact Tracing App prior to departure.”

“You will be required to wear a geofencing watch for 14 days”.

Following a thorough search of the Ministry’s official COVID-19 website and its social media platforms, there does not appear to be any link where this App can be downloaded.

The existence of this contact-tracing app is therefore questionable-since as indicated it could not be located, far less ‘downloaded’. Its non-existence has also been raised by the numerous comments on the Ministry’s own social media platforms, seeking clarity and a link where this App can be found. Up to the time of expressing our concern regarding the link, the Ministry has not publicly shared on its social media platforms where the “Contact Tracing App” can be found and downloaded.

Furthermore, upon my arrival on Sunday, 9th August, 2020 the Health Officials at the airport made no mention of this “Contact Tracing App” or, where it could be downloaded, neither have I received a ‘geofencing’ watch or have been notified of its existence on my arrival.

NEGATIVE PCR TEST: “You are required to present a certified copy of a negative PCR test that was conducted within 7 days of travel”.

On Friday 7th August, 9:38 AM, an Agent acting on behalf of the Ministry of Health responded to email of August 6th informing me that a negative COVID-19 test should accompany the forms. With due haste, the requested negative COVID-19 test result was submitted on Friday 7th August 2020, at 11:01 AM. Its receipt was duly acknowledged on Saturday 8th August 2020.

On my arrival into Grenada on Sunday 9th August 2020, I also presented my negative COVID-19 PCR test result to Health Officials as required on Page 7 of the Incoming Passenger Protocols. I have also attached a copy of our correspondence and my negative COVID-19 PCR test result previously submitted in fulfillment of this requirement [Exhibit C1].

Having come from the United States, which I aptly declared. I made no effort to conceal my original country of departure, as such the Protocols for High-Risk countries on page 7 therefore applied. An excerpt of this is as follows:

UPON ARRIVAL (HIGH RISK) – “All passengers will be PCR tested within 48 hours of arrival, and will be required to spend up to 14 days in a state approved quarantine facility (at traveller’s expense).”

In the absence of a clear definition in the Protocols, “state approved” is construed in reference to statements made by Representatives from the Ministry of Health that home quarantine facilities need to be evaluated and approved by the Ministry of Health itself. In fact, there does not appear to be any official guidance from the Ministry of Health on the requirements or criteria for assessing the Home Quarantine Application.

I draw your attention to the flow chart on Page 7 of the ‘Incoming Passengers Protocols’.

1. Present copy of negative PCR test and health form  Full compliance as detailed above 
2. Submit to PCR test. A PCR swab was conducted by health officials at MBIA. 
3. If PCR is NEGATIVE —–14-day quarantine in approved accommodation
  • Application for home quarantine approval submitted 6th August.
  • Negative PCR result confirmed, 11th August.
4. If PCR is POSITIVE —14- day quarantine in state facility.  Not applicable

As is evident, the Incoming Passengers Protocols make distinction only between approved accommodation and quarantine in state facility. There is no distinction between approved home quarantine facilities and approved paid quarantine facilities.

Page 1 of the ‘Home Quarantine Application Form’ clearly states, “public health officials will evaluate whether you can be safely cared for at home”.

Please see attached a copy of the ‘Home Quarantine Application’ submitted on August 6th 2020, to which I have yet to be contacted to arrange an inspection. This form included an indemnity clause (no. 8), which I duly signed and returned. As is detailed on the ‘Home Quarantine Application Form’, the apartment is vacant and has been available for inspection ever since.

The receipt of my Home Quarantine Application was “noted” and I was informed by an agent acting on behalf of the Ministry of Health and therefore in the minds of reasonable men, duly authorised to make representations on behalf of the Ministry of Health, that “…however, bookings must be made at a Government approved accommodation for at least 48hrs pending your results as established in the current protocols”. Again, ‘Government approved’ in this context is also ambiguous in its meaning, given that home quarantine facilities must also be evaluated and approved by the Ministry of Health. I have attached our correspondence for your information [Exhibit C1].

Prior to my arrival in Grenada there were numerous reports from returning nationals that on their arrival the Protocols actually applied differed markedly, from the Protocols published on the Official COVID-19 website (https://covid19.gov.gd). My own experience on arrival in Grenada on August 9th, 2020 confirms the veracity of these reports and, I humbly suggest this amounts to either incompetence or, state sanctioned duplicity, and dangerously deceitful misrepresentation of the Country’s state of readiness to combat COVID-19, orchestrated and managed by the Ministry of Health.

Be that as it may, upon my arrival, I again requested to be put into home-quarantine having already submitted the application available on the Ministry’s Official COVID-19 website. I explained to you Sir, and to other Health Officials of my safety concerns. These concerns were blatantly disregarded and instead Health Officials informed me that I would now be required to stay in paid accommodation for 14 days. Even this Sir, stands in stark contrast to the advice provided by your Agent on Friday 7th August, 2020- two days prior to my arrival.

Evidently, the communication received from the COVID-19 team is conflicting, inconsistent and vague. The ‘Incoming Passenger Protocols’ lack sufficient clarity, include and reference elements, which are nonexistent and therefore cannot be enforced. I’m sure you will agree Sir that these Protocols as they now exist represents a poor attempt to replicate the Protocols of other Caribbean islands and the Guidelines of the PAHO.

Given the impact of these Protocols on my constitutional right to life and liberty I have yet to receive a reasonable, necessary and proportionate justification as to why my ‘home-quarantine’ at a vacant, well-ventilated and isolated 2-bedroom self-contained apartment is detrimental to the public health. Furthermore, until and unless the apartment listed on my ‘Home Quarantine Application’ is evaluated, the State has no reasonable public health grounds on which to deny my application.

I also submit that given the fact that all incoming passengers are quarantined together at these facilities, the ‘community risk of spread’ is substantially elevated. Sir, your failure to acknowledge my home quarantine application, has therefore directly and unnecessarily placed me at greater risk of contagion, at a hotel or paid accommodation as compared to the reasonable and safe alternative for which approval has been requested (i.e. my own empty isolated apartment).

I am well aware of our over-reliance on Tourism and this attempt to force Citizens into paid accommodation appears to be nothing more than a way to funnel much needed revenue into a severely battered sector of the economy now reeling from the effects of the coronavirus. The manner in which the 14-day paid quarantine has been announced, arbitrarily changed upon arrival, and imposed, effectively closes the borders to the less fortunate, such as myself and others, but maintains it open to investors and those of means. This Sir, attaches a ‘means test’ to the enjoyment of rights enshrined in our Constitution to Grenadians, while providing for these rights to non-Grenadians – ‘the classic example of discrimination’. This Sir, will have the intended, or unintended impact of imposing of intentional obstacles to deter many Grenadian CITIZENS from returning home.

The concern for the public safety must of course be taken into consideration when evaluating a ‘Home Quarantine Application’ and establishing the Protocols. In fact, the lack of proper health facilities are issues that indeed must be addressed when dealing with the coronavirus, however Grenadian citizens must not be subjected to additional financial hardship due to the failures of successive governments to address the health care system in Grenada. Subjecting returning CITIZENS to paid accommodation when vacant home quarantine facilities are available at no cost to them, is therefore inequitable and unjust.

Reports of persons disappearing from quarantine facilities does not inspire confidence in the Government’s approach to managing this Pandemic. You are well aware Sir that the security arrangements at these facilities continue to be inadequate. In fact, in a recent programme on ‘Hardtalk’, Mr. Keville Frederick, Information Officer from the Ministry of Health, admitted that an individual escaped from the quarantine facility. This was the latest in a series of well-documented system failure. You are well aware too, that my address and contact details in Grenada are well known and there will be no need to launch a full-scale police search to discover my location. I have always conducted myself as a law-abiding citizen of Grenada and there is no evidence to support any assumption that I will not adhere to the home quarantine restrictions, or that I pose a danger to public health.

Accordingly, to intentionally or otherwise present the impression, or for you to allow the impression to be presented that I do not wish to comply with the Protocols is not only misleading, unjust and unfair, but it brings into question, the true intention of the misinformation. May I remind you Sir, that as a Senior Civil Servant you are required to be impartial, politically neutral and unbiased in your application of the ‘Incoming Passengers Protocols’.

Having regard to the foregoing, reasonable minds can only affirm that I have ardently adhered to the ‘Incoming Passengers Protocols’ as published by the Ministry of Health and, accordingly I await the official outcome of my request conveyed via the ‘Home Quarantine Application Form’.

I anticipate your considered and timely response.

Respectfully,
George Worme

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