We in Vinceyland are a Special People!!
I had started writing this weekly column when I received news that SVG has a second positive case of the COVID-19 virus.
It does not detract from what I was planning to write, but rather strengthens my views. At the same time, it is my hope that this will jolt my fellow citizens out of a sense of complacency and convince them that it cannot be business as usual. There is great concern about this virus since it is new and still not fully understood. At one time we were told that Face Masks were only necessary for medical personnel and persons suspected of having the virus to prevent them passing it on. Now we are hearing other views, but there seems to be no clear position on this.
As I read and listen to what is going on around the world and listen to health professionals, I worry about SVG. I listened to and read comments from the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Keizer-Beache and from doctors Twanna Caesar-Browne and from Dr Wayne Murray. They have all emphasized social distancing, Dr Murray, in particular, has been quite outspoken. Dr Keizer said that the fight has just begun, and we are not Covid free. Dr Browne referred to a large funeral in Biabou two weekends ago and to the continued use of amplified sounds. She warned persons to be careful, especially those with returning relatives. Dr Murray has been a regular commentator on the issue, warns against our lackadaisical approach and asks that politicians play second fiddle to the health professionals.
What worries me particularly is that the positions and activities of the politicians seem to be at odds with what the medical people are saying and there are many examples of that, especially where social distancing is concerned. I had feared that with the idea going around that the country was covid-19 free some persons would consider business as usual. The Government has been leaving it up to individuals to do the right thing, but this will not work, unless there is clear direction from above and efforts at enforcement. Ours is not a country known for its discipline. It was good to hear that some agreement was reached with the minivans on the way forward, but my observation on Wednesday morning was that there still appeared to be overcrowding, certainly not the three a row suggested. Is it that the economic concessions granted are not a strong enough incentive? In any event, while some van owners/drivers are responsible, many are not. If they feel that there is not a problem here with the virus then they might not be motivated. Hopefully the latest news and the unconfirmed talk about the individual who had tested positive getting home in a minivan, might lead them to a rethinking. I must congratulate the supermarkets and banks for taking the initiatives they have and also other business and workplaces for falling in line. Although fewer people seem to be in Kingstown (schools are closed), one gets the impression that it is business as usual. A friend who went to Sandy Bay on the weekend reported a large funeral where people were bundled together.
Most countries in the region, like elsewhere, are closing down or limiting activity. There are curfews and in cases, complete shutdowns. We are in some cases doing the opposite to what is recommended by the WHO and health authorities in those countries that have been seriously affected. As I understand it our testing for the virus is still limited since we have to send specimens to Barbados or Trinidad. Even if the number of confirmed cases are still small, we should try to keep it so. Why are we reluctant to fall in line? In my view it is better for us to err on the side of caution. Health should be our first priority.
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian