by Keith Ventour
Grenada’s health system is now in a very precarious position. The events of recent weeks have indisputably changed the Covid-19 landscape in this country.
What has brought us to this sad place of brinkmanship? Who is to be blamed, right or wrong? What were/are the mitigating factors, and what must be done to preserve, protect and ensure the life and livelihood of Grenadians?
To begin with, I must say it was not a well thought out decision by the powers that be to allow “carnival-like activities” to take place in the 2020 carnival season and to initially give the impression that such activities would be allowed at village level in 2021. Having witnessed what happened last year, all should have been aware of the psyche and mood of Grenadians. The perceived consensus was that some persons felt disenfranchised, as some would have been able to “eat ah food” while others could not. It would seem that in making their decisions, the powers that be did not take seriously the political and social overtones spiraling throughout the country. Additionally, there was an underestimation of the level of opposition to Covid-19 vaccination.
What resulted was a reminder of the 1970s when Gairy said ‘NO JAB JAB’ and Grenadians played Jab like never before. This time around, we saw again a show of rebellion and protest towards the government and the so-called “time to free up, time to play we mas, time to have some fun,’ in the name of culture. However, 2021 is not 1974! The fatal consequences in the current environment are obvious. Covid-19 has been wreaking havoc throughout the world.
This protest was spurred on by some selfish pseudo-intellectual individuals, who galvanised carnival revelers into deadly super spreader events over the carnival weekend.
In setting forth my analysis, I will like to make it unequivocally clear that I do endorse and have given the government and public health authority my full support in ensuring that the state of Grenada was, for the most part, kept Covid-19 free. Our measures were second to none, as we were able to effectively control and manage the virus up until the first 2 weeks of August.
In the same breath however, I hasten to say our administration may have dropped the ball and maybe continue to do so by (1) the 48-hours quarantine time for vaccinated persons entering the country, which may turn out to be insufficient, and (2) the congestion in the arrival area at Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) especially when there is more than one international flight. I have been reliably informed by someone who entered the country on 7 August, that passengers were in each other faces, and the faces of the Covid staff. The inference here is that this area could be a centre for transmission. It is well known that airports without the required public health safeguards can be vehicles for Covid transmissions.
There is the theory that the virus was already on-island at the beginning of August. This theory should not be dismissed. This would have meant that most of the carnival-like activities, parties and other social events which took place in the first 2 weeks of August, could have been super spreader events. I strongly believe that the powers that be, were aware that community spread had begun in the country and were struggling to make 2 critical decisions. The first of these had to do with the possible extension of the 48-hour quarantine period to 5 or 7 days and the second, whether or not to begin a lockdown of the country.
I remind readers of the press briefing of Dr Shawn Charles, Acting Chief Medical Officer on 4 August, when he informed the nation of case 170, a female, who entered the country on 27 July with a negative PCR test, and on preparing to leave the country, her test revealed a positive result on 3 August.
Another official press release put out by the Government Information Service (GIS) on 15 August, stated that Grenada had recorded 2 more Covid cases confirmed on 14 August. Again, they were returning nationals who came in with a negative PCR test and on preparing to leave tested positive.
The health minister’s controversial but correct pronouncement that “Grenadians will die”, in addition to the 2 press releases, are reasons for my above conclusion. I contend, that if the decision-makers had the political will and fortitude and took into consideration the bigger picture, in securing life and livelihood of Grenadians, the country should have been shut down almost immediately. We most probably will not have been in this Covid pandemonium we are presently experiencing. In my opinion, we are 4 weeks late with our new curfew hours and weekend lockdowns.
Once community spread had begun, our transport bus system must have been compromised and became a critical medium for Covid transmission. High priority is needed to be given to this sector as we analyse and navigate the way forward. Testing of bus operators and conductors will become necessary. The National Bus Association recently took the decision to suspend operations effective Wednesday, 7 September and continuing until Wednesday, 15 September in the first instance. We have also heard of the death of 2 bus operators while many more operators and conductors have been infected. The reason for the action taken by the association was the protection of life and livelihood.
What took place then is now history and it is now left for the selfish, blinded, misguided and unreasonable promoters to bask in their guilt for putting the country in this our most endangered period ever. Many of us may be saying now, ‘if, if, if I had listened. If I was not so selfish. If I was not so unreasonable and if I did not display so much political ineptitude, we might have been in a better place.’
What are the implications? We see rising active cases of Covid transmissions, hospitalisations and deaths. We have moved from zero active local cases on 7 August to 1,955 cases by 12 September; from one death to 27 and with the number of persons currently in hospital moving from zero to 51 in the same period. This has put immense strain on our already fragile physical and human medical resources. Already elective procedures have been cancelled, denying patients their long-awaited medical treatment. Thursday, 9 September was an extremely dark and painful day for Grenada as we recorded our youngest Covid death yet, number 15. The brilliant, talented, hilarious 18-year-old Reanna Bruno, second-year TAMCC student, succumbed to the deadly coronavirus.
As we speak, our accident and emergency department is seeing a constant increase in Covid patients. More beds are currently being reset to accommodate the exponential growth in hospitalisation.
New stiffer measures are to be implemented to stem the spread of this deadly virus.
The question is what can we do to arrest this compelling situation? Vaccination is the main asset in defeating Covid-19. This must be ardently articulated. I submit, our Prime Minister missed the perfect opportunity in his last national address to send his strongest message yet, that vaccination is the proven scientific method in curbing this coronavirus. The government must continue to lead in ensuring compliance with the protocols they have unveiled.
HOWEVER, THE GOVERNMENT ALONE CANNOT DO IT.
It is now left up to each one of us Grenadians to personally take responsibility, recognise where we are and do what is right by ultimately protecting ourselves and our families. Wearing of masks is a critical mitigating tool in protecting ourselves. In doing so, we must promote health awareness, the boosting of our immune system, more regular exercise, pay more attention to our mental health and most importantly become vaccinated. To enhance the above, we must rigorously follow the designated protocols.
Many a time the message is not sufficiently filtered through to the public because what I may refer to as ‘face’ fatigue of the messenger. We may need new faces, persons from the NGOs, trade union movement, religious denominations, senior nurses and public health personnel who may be able to better convey information more effectively to the general public, or at least catch the attention of their respective constituencies.
We must also continue to educate ourselves on the science, on how the Covid-19 reality is constantly changing and what adjustments we have to make in order to sustain life and the fulfillment of the master’s plan.
We must also continue to call out the detractors and anti-vaxxers, whose unfortunate work has undoubtedly contributed to the colossal mess the world is in today.
Finally, live and let live. Let us always seek the Lord’s guidance through this period and continue to enjoy life within the new parameters of this pandemic.
Let us stay universally safe.
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