by Brittney Vincent
With vaccines instituted and the focus is on Grenada “re-opening” its borders for tourism, what are we to expect for our small country?
Covid-19 was declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020, and we have seen Prime Minister Keith Mitchell and Minister of Health Nickolas Steele take preventive measures to control and alleviate the spread. The government temporarily banned international travel, except for returning residents and citizens who followed a curfew. Taking this stance kept the residents of the island safe, protected, and almost Covid-19 free.
Grenada only recorded 161 cases with one death . As a Grenadian-American, living in New York City epicenter of the virus, New York City, this is considered phenomenal. However, what are the island’s future expectations with the release of vaccines and tourism’s return? We have seen how Covid-19 withheld billions of dollars for the Caribbean, which in return has affected local businesses and left its population jobless . Particularly in Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell announced a projected $181 million revenue loss . The decisions resulted in whether citizens’ safety or financial security is more important. It is a situation of a double-edged sword.
Multiple Caribbean islands have opened their borders, some allowing Americans, as they witnessed the rise of Covid-19 cases. Quickly they closed their borders again, noticing they did not have the complete ability to control viral spread. Through practiced quarantine and the average Covid-19 prevention methods, most islands have been capable of opening borders and contained the virus to some degree.
I am a travel enthusiast. I have had 4 passports and almost every single page stamped from visiting up to 14 countries, some more than once. I am itching for another trip, especially back to Grenada. Still, I made a conscious decision, for obvious reasons, to stay home. However, I have seen social media travel enthusiasts enter the Caribbean and leave mandated quarantine to avoid 24 to 48 hours of waiting for their test results. They would check in another hotel and falsify information to evade quarantine. These selfish actions threatened and endangered locals. Recently in Grenada, an American doctor and his wife left their mandated quarantine before receiving test results and dined at four restaurants. After this incident, 38 locals had to quarantine .
New York City has the largest Grenadian immigrant population in the world. At the beginning of the pandemic, black neighborhoods and the black Caribbean community in New York accounted for the highest death rates from Covid-19 at 92% . Grenada must continue restrictions, quarantine, and border controls on European and American tourists. At the same time, Grenadian lives are at risk in NYC. Until the government distributes vaccines to most of the population, Grenada must maintain low cases without putting pressure on a health care system that is not capable of health crises.
Most Caribbean islands do not have the medical capacity to protect their citizens from the virus, but will things change with the vaccine? As of 2 May, Grenada has administered 12,971 Covid-19 vaccines . The hopefulness of the vaccine can allow tourism and revenue to return to a form of normalcy on the island. As a country, we can become more creative and adjust our approaches to public health and economics. Addressing the social determinants of health, poor health outcomes, and a flawed health care system in Grenada should be the initial approach to improvement. Proper public health interventions, for example, primary health care and nutrition, will lead to better health statuses. Eventually, this leads to an improved economy because it is less financial stress on the government. Poverty and poor education are associated with adverse health outcomes. Hence, tackling the economic crisis increases the socioeconomic status of Grenadians and their health. The pandemic has also shown that an economy that solely relies on tourism has proven to be undependable. Another approach to consider for future biological threats is to create a thorough prevention action plan.
While tourists see the Caribbean as a mental health getaway to the tropics from their Covid-19 stresses and responsibilities, some forget they are endangering Caribbean people’s lives in the process. The folks of Grenada and the rest of the Caribbean are experiencing health crises mentally, physically, and spiritually. Recent studies have shown that mental health issues have amplified amongst adolescents ages 13-29 in the Caribbean and Latin America. “For 30%, the main reason influencing their current emotions is the economic situation.” .
Although Grenada is an island known for its hospitality, these visitors inadvertently project their biases and entitlement onto Caribbean people, who expect us to cater to them. Tourists do not realise families and people desire to live and feel protected from the virus and enjoy their homes as much as the visitors.
Brittney Vincent is a Master’s in Public Health in Epidemiology candidate, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.
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