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Labour tells govt to stop blaming the people for COVID-19 spread

Senator Andre Lewis - President of the Grenada Trade Union Council

The head of the Labour Movement in Grenada has called on the government to take responsibility for the current COVID-19 cluster spread at Sandals Resort and to stop passing the blame onto the people of the country.

Senator Andre Lewis, who is the President of the Grenada Trade Union Council (GTUC) made the call Wednesday during his contribution to the debate in the Upper House of Parliament on the 2021 National Budget.

Sen. Lewis said the message from the government comes across as if the people are to be blamed for the current spike in COVID-19 cases which appears to be linked to the operation of the ‘hospitality corridor’, a programme sanctioned by the Ministries of Health and Tourism, that allows the exemption of testing and quarantine for some hotels.

“I have listened to the pronouncement of our leaders … when I listen to them passing the blame on the workers, passing the blame on the population for not wearing masks, implying that this might have come about because people not wearing masks,” he told the sitting.

He stated that while government is to be congratulated for their handling of the pandemic up until a few days ago when the cluster was uncovered and confirmed COVID19 cases doubled overnight, they must now “come clean and take responsibility” for the problems that have arisen.

“And just as how we applaud government for the leadership role that it has shown over the last nine or ten months, I think it is absolutely important when there are grave issues as that which are confronting us now, just as we are prepared to take the praise we must be prepared to take the responsibility.

“We do not believe that anyone deliberately did anything but leadership requires that when we make decisions, even with the best of intentions and things go not the way we want we must put up our hands and that to me is sadly lacking”.

In a national address Monday evening, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell failed to acknowledge any responsibility on the part of the authorities for what has happened and also did not offer any empathy for the affected workers and their families who have been infected through the Sandals cluster spread.

Instead the Prime Minister, as well as senior health officials have publicly struck a chastising note, aimed at the public, which seems to suggest that they are responsible.

Sen. Lewis told the sitting: “We cannot remain in lockdown forever but there are certain procedures that we need to follow, and we need to insist and especially when we know we have people coming in from certain areas there means that the aspect of monitoring must be more intense.

“So it behoves us to take responsibility and to come clean and point out what we intend to do about mitigating that,” he said.

Sen. Lewis also spoke about a double standard and inconsistency in how those in authority respond to breaches of the COVID-19 protocols.

He said: “When our locals return to Grenada and break the protocols by leaving the quarantine stations, whether by misunderstanding or not, our health officials and our Minister goes after them but when it is pointed out that other individuals who may have a different status in our society deliberately break the protocols by visiting other restaurants etc, there is an eerie silence.

“We have to get out of this. Wherever there are loopholes, the State and the authorities must take responsibility and put better systems in place,” he added.

The senior trade unionist called for a balance between health and well-being and economics, and called for provisions to be put in place to keep workers and the population safe.

He suggested that hotel staff work for two weeks at a time and undergo COVID-19 testing before returning to their communities.

Sen. Lewis noted that the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) wrote to Caricom in June to say the region was not yet ready to reopen, adding that porous borders and a lack of uniformity of COVID-19 regulations among the countries of the region is a problem.

In the case of Grenada, the borders were re-opened an entire month before originally intended to allow Sandals guests to enter the country.

As of Thursday, the total number of Covid-19 cases discovered on Grenada has hit 85 with heath officials expecting the number to increase because of the failure of government’s ‘hospitality corridor’ to facilitate hotel guests from overseas.

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