“The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has made it very clear, we say, vaccinate today, however, as a responsible political organisation, where democracy reigns, we have to be tolerant with the people who are not prepared as yet to take the vaccine, and I am calling on the government to do more so that we can persuade these people.”
This was the solemn request made Monday by the Acting Political Leader of the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Adrian Thomas during a virtual press conference, which focused on the need for a more “inclusive approach” in addressing the scourge of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
The plight comes approximately 2-months after newly appointed Opposition Senator, and Businesswoman, Rolanda Mc Queen, called out the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, on its perceived “suspicious” approach towards addressing the controversial issue of vaccine reluctancy among the population.
“We must respect them, we cannot give up on them, and we must continue to hold dialogue with them to convince or persuade them to take the vaccine,” Thomas said, citing vaccine education as a key factor in the process.
“The whole question of educating our people is very important – before we consider bullying them, our people need to know the truth. (There are) too many conspiracy theories out there and our people have to battle with this. We as leaders in this country have a right to seek the correct information and feed the people. That is our responsibility as leaders in this country and we must do so,” he declared.
While the rate of COVID-19 inoculation on the island has picked up significantly since the spike detected last month, the deadly virus continues to spread throughout communities, claiming the lives of over 50 persons based on figures from local funeral homes.
Opposition leader Tobias Clement estimates that over 15,000 Grenadians could be infected by Covid-19 given the rapid rate of infestation in the past month.
Thomas slammed the NNP regime on its sudden approach to establish an “Ethics Committee” to determine who lives or die if the 83 beds at the isolation units are maxed out, as the situation worsens.
According to the former civil servant, while “this committee should be part, and parcel of the hospital structure, it seems as though it is coming to light now because of COVID.”
This, he noted “is not good for the people morally because it creates a sense of fear in the minds of people especially now when they are going through a crisis, adding that “morally, I think they made a fundamental mistake there.”
Thomas urged the government to “reach out to the people” instead, and to “rise to the occasion and give the people a sense of hope (and) to show that it is “prepared to do what is necessary to make sure that every single life is important.”
“At this point, this is not the moment to spread any sense of doom and gloom in our society,” he declared.
The Congress leader also spoke out against the housing of COVID-19 patients with non-COVID-19 patients at the St. George’s General Hospital and called for the discontinuation of this practice, and expressed the view that the Mitchell-led regime had adequate time to put systems in place to ensure proper management of COVID-19 patients.
Last week Tuesday, Director of Hospital Services Dr. Carol McIntosh confirmed that over 60 healthcare workers have contracted the highly contagious Delta strain of the coronavirus, affecting every department, forcing a downscale operation of hospital services on the island.
In addition, she confirmed that nurses at the General Hospital were simultaneously providing care to COVID-19 patients and non-COVID-19 patients, who were housed on the same ward.
However, she said that these COVID-19 cases are “isolated and separated from patients who are COVID negative,” and “were (only) there (in the ward with non- COVID-19 patients) until we can move them immediately into the isolation ward, and kept separate.”
The acting NDC leader expressed the view that “we had enough time as a state to put systems in place to ensure that we had a plan…”
“…The government has failed miserably….there are nurses in this country (who) for their safety have to be contemplating whether they should go to work or not and when they measure the risk, if they are not guided properly, they would take the necessary action for their survival,” he said.
Thomas also pointed to a “lack of governance in the country to the extent where, because they are not given the proper guidance, people have had to take actions in their own hands.”
“We have to fix that. The people need to be guided in this hour of pandemic and I am sure that NaDMA (the National Disaster Management Agency) can help in that respect,” he said.
The agency falls under the portfolio of Prime Minister Mitchell, who is the Minister for National Security, Public Administration, Disaster Management, Home Affairs, Information & Implementation, with Senator Winston Garraway being the specific Minister with responsibility for National Disaster Management.
According to Thomas, “in this hour of disaster” the government should maximise the use of trained personal at NADMA in which the head, Benedict has reportedly left the post to go into pre-retirement from the public service.
Thomas also called for the “immediate” review of the 2-day quarantine period now in place for persons coming into the country, recommending an extension of “five (5) to seven (7) days” for visitors, whether they are vaccinated or not.
Sharing the press conference with the NDC was the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, who recently aligned himself with the party, and met with PM Mitchell on Wednesday to discuss having a more inclusive approach in managing the coronavirus pandemic in going forward.
Clement called on the country’s leadership to “pay closer attention to what is taking place on the ground, and bring to bear the resources of the country that would help to alleviate the suffering.
In addition to the 7.00 p.m. – 5.00 a.m., curfew, this weekend, Grenadians would undergo the second period of no movement days commencing at 5:00 p.m. today Friday until 5:00 a.m. on Monday to facilitate greater access to testing, and vaccination within communities in light of the continued increase in COVID-19 cases.