The upsurge in the number of COVID-19 cases in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is cause for concern. What is more troubling is the large number of Vincentians who have contracted the virus and do not have a recent travel history, and the reluctance of the government to declare that there is community spread of the coronavirus. The government has clearly demonstrated that it does not have an effective plan to manage the spread of the coronavirus.
We are in a crisis. It would appear that the situation is overwhelming for the government. This is demonstrated by the reactive decisions which are made by the government. Dr Friday, President of the New Democratic Party and Leader of the Opposition, has offered advice on numerous occasions to the government as to the measures that can be implemented to curb the spread of the virus, but his advice has been ignored. However, Vincentians were given two (2) public holidays, Friday 22nd and Monday 25th January. What was the main objective of the holidays? Was it to give our health personnel time to rest and reflect as was suggested? We hope that those days were used to do extensive contact tracing and systematic testing by the Ministry of Health.
We recall last year that spokespersons for the government were boasting that they were doing better in managing the coronavirus than any other member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), as if it were a competition. Today, the figures do not reveal that. As of 26th January, St. Vincent and the Grenadines had the highest number of active COVID-19 cases, 631, in the OECS; St. Lucia had 436; Grenada had 11; Dominica had 8; Antigua had 22; and St. Kitts had 2. All of these islands with the exception of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have implemented stringent measures to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Further, what is the current positivity rate from recent tests? The system is stretched to the limit. How are they managing to isolate the increasing number of active cases? We have heard and read stories of individuals who have had problems in finding facilities to isolate. For instance, it was reported in one of our weekly newspapers on the weekend of January 22nd, of a young lady who tested positive for the coronavirus and did not have anywhere to go and isolate, and was forced to sleep on the compound of a school before she was placed in a facility. Another pertinent question: How are they managing contact tracing for so many new cases that grow more every day? We need answers. People are scared and confused. And the government appears to be paralyzed, unable to act decisively and effectively.
This spike in the number of cases has heightened public concern about the situation. The government needs to act now and introduce measures to control the spread of the virus. The government also has a responsibility to provide the public with timely and adequate information about the state of the pandemic in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This, we hope will instil confidence in the populace as it relates to information sharing.
Excerpts of Dr Friday’s Address to the Nation
Dr Friday is consistent whenever he speaks to the COVID-19 situation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The following are excerpts from his address to the nation last year. Let us reflect on what was said;
“This means we must do all we can to protect our people. This requires closing our borders for a while by suspending all arrivals at our airports and seaports, except essential travellers, including nationals and commerce. We would then review the decision as conditions change. Taking this action now will give us the best chance of avoiding more cases of COVID-19 in SVG and of reducing the risk of an outbreak that may overburden our fragile healthcare system. The situation as it is now is creating unacceptable risks to the health and safety of our people. It is better to be safe than sorry.
As the situation stands, with all airports and some seaports open, and with very limited testing for the disease being done, the only reasonable measure that can protect the public is to quarantine all arrivals into the country, wherever they come from. Every country in the world now has COVID-19. That is, after all, why it is called a global pandemic. So, all arrivals from any country must be considered to be potential carriers of the virus and must be handled as such.
Further, the present system of in-home isolation or self-regulated quarantine is dangerous, because it is unenforceable. Even when the authorities seize the passports of people on arrival, as is being done in some cases; this cannot guarantee compliance with the quarantine requirements. And a guarantee of compliance not merely a likelihood is what is required in the present circumstances. We simply must ensure that all persons observe the quarantine fully. The stakes are simply too high to have it otherwise. This calls for a government-operated isolation facility to house all new arrivals for the 14-day quarantine period. It is the only way to protect the public from potential harm and prevent the spread of the virus in our country.”
The New Democratic Party continues to urge Vincentians to act responsible, remain on high alert and do all that is possible to prevent the further spread of the virus. Remember to continue to practice the basics, wear face masks, maintain social distance when interacting with the public, avoid large crowds where possible,