Let prudence be the better part of valour
WHEN HEALTH AUTHORITIES in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) announced a few weeks ago that home quarantine had been introduced as an option for fully vaccinated arrivals, many breathed a sigh of relief, as the new protocol immediately made travel to and from SVG more attractive and affordable. But the relief was short lived as earlier this week, the coronavirus task force updated the protocols to remove that option; the 48-hour quarantine period must now be spent in an approved quarantine hotel.
While immediate response from prospective travelers, those in transit or tourism sector stakeholders might be frustration or even anger, on deeper reflection, most would recognize that the restriction is for the greater good, given the current state of affairs.
As at yesterday’s date, only nine per cent of the Vincentian population had been fully vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID19. With that low vaccination rate, the risk that COVID19 poses to the vast majority of Vincentians is as great as it has ever been. Fueled by lies, misinformation, and disinformation, the rate of vaccine hesitancy in SVG is very high. Our population therefore remains particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID19.
When you couple that low vaccination rate with the emergence of the Delta variant of COVID19, we would understand the need to be particularly cautious. The epidemiological reports are clear. This version of the coronavirus is 60 per cent more transmissible than the original lineage. Greater transmissibility means a greater number of people would be infected. And greater infections would bring more restrictions to movement and commerce, more hospitalizations and more deaths.
And while we recognize that the risk of a fully vaccinated person contracting COVID19 is very low, it can happen. This was proven just last week in a neighboring Caribbean country where two fully vaccinated arrivals tested positive for the Delta variant of the COVID19 virus. And although the risk of transmission is again exceedingly low, vaccinated persons can also transmit the virus.
Although arrivals who quarantine at home all faithfully promise to isolate themselves, we are all aware that we are social beings and far too often those in quarantine are not as careful as they should be. Ascertaining whether an arrival is infected with COVID19 before they are allowed to mix and mingle remains the safest option for Vincentians. Spending forty-eight hours in an approved hotel cannot be too much to ask arrivals as their contribution to keeping our nation safe.
Anything that we can do to limit Vincentians’ exposure to this variant must be done even as we welcome more international travelers to our shores. We see the damage being done by the Delta variant all around us, even in other parts of the Caribbean. In the face of the pandemic, prudence is the better part of valour. As we extend the welcome mat to international travel, we must do so with all necessary caution.