by Dr John N Telesford, PhD
As I write this piece (23 March 2020) two databases are reporting the warping numbers of global cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported 332,930 cases on 23 March; while the Johns Hopkins University reported 372,563 cases. The number of deaths has grown to over 15,000, pushing closer to the 20,000 mark. My heart and prayers go out to all citizens of the world and to fellow Grenadians and Caribbean friends and colleagues. Many people are in a state of shock and panic, as the first case of Covid-19 has hit our shores.
So far, the Government of Grenada has done and continues to do a good job in its attempts to mitigate and suppress the spread of the disease, but as fate will have it, the Covid-19 has gotten into Grenada. It is now up to each and every one of us to be responsible citizens in doing our part to ensure the disease does not spread. Already the government and the MBIA have taken the decision to close the airport and to not allow any passengers into Grenada in the meantime. This closure will minimise the importation of more cases into the island. The authorities will now have to find persons who were on the flight and to test these people and quarantine them if tested positive. In fact, all the people on this flight should test voluntarily and act sensibly and responsibly, by staying at home for the stipulated period of time and to practice good hygiene.
If this turns out to be the only case in Grenada, this will be the best outcome, but the possibility exists that this may not be so. Whatever the outcome, however, the Covid-19 spread worldwide is a grave cause for concern, and in this regard, we must not let down our guards too early. Many experts are suggesting that the Covid-19 will continue to linger for 18 to 24 months. Even more challenging is finding a safe and effective vaccine and antiviral drugs that will protect us from the disease. Therefore, the world is not going to suddenly return to normal any time soon. In fact, many are predicting that a number of the measures that are been implemented now can become the ‘new normal’ for doing things globally and maybe locally.
Grenada therefore must carefully consider the option of cancelling the carnival season for 2020. I can hear and feel the total objection to this suggestion from many circles – for this seems to be unimaginable. However, during the 1979–1983 period, it was done, albeit for a totally different reason, prompting a leading calypsonian at the time – Timpo – to pen the song ‘We want we carnival’. But serious consideration must be taken to cancel carnival as we can reverse all the hard work of spreading the Covid-19 disease. To date, we are proactively encouraging ‘social distancing’ and many other measures as a means to suppress the spread. If we are successful and we end up with one case, or a few at the most, or no cases into August, it does not mean that we are out of the woods.
As mentioned previously, the SARS-CoV-2 will not go away anytime soon and will still be around globally. With allowing thousands of people to come in for the carnival season we run the risk of more Covid-19 cases to be transmitted thus reversing the early gains of dealing with the disease. As we are well aware, post-carnival every year, there is a massive outbreak of the ‘cold’ or ‘flu’ that is given some local name, this time around the name may just be Covid-19. This situation will definitely overwhelm the health care system, with the high possibility of unprecedented and unnecessary deaths. Finally, this is not a call of apocalypse, but just an early suggestion to be considered seriously. We may need to err on the side of caution and say, “we doh want we carnival.” However, it may not be an easy and popular decision to make.