Let’s be serious!
As I write my column today, Tuesday, April 28 (This being a shortened week), the main talking point appears to be about getting home persons working on cruise liners, oil rigs, and other ships, including cargo ships.
Talk has centred largely on whose responsibility it is to pay for having them quarantined here, also how and when they would be returning.
My understanding is that the PM’s Press Secretary had phoned in to Hot 97.1 FM indicating that plans have been made for them (some of them, perhaps!) to be accommodated by flight on Thursday, today that is.
Now given the concerns from relatives and friends, it beats me that such information is given through a call-in to a radio programme. This is a national concern. Why can’t we have an official release on that matter, stating clearly what the position is? As it turns out, some persons, including some on the ships are disputing this, suggesting that there is provision being put in place to have them brought back in May by ships taking crew to the different countries.
One of the problems I have is the manner in which information is passed on. There should be regular updates stating the facts as they are at any particular time and information on what the plans are as we go forward. The Prime Minister’s style is not geared to this. His is naturally a combative, campaign style approach. At this time with so much uncertainty around, we simply want to know what is the present status and what are the plans in place, and to have some sense of security.
As to whose responsibility it is to meet the costs of their quarantine at home. It is my view without recourse to any relevant international maritime law that once our people get to SVG, they become our obligation. Despite already being quarantined, this needs to be repeated. The process of getting them home could expose them especially in situations where the virus is passed around by persons who are asymptomatic.
Not enough attention I believe seemed to have been paid to this. Where are they going to be quarantined and what measures are in place re security, providing meals, cleaning/sanitising etc.? We must be warned about self- quarantine, given recent examples. This has to be well-managed since most of our positive cases were from persons returning to the country. Failure to do this can lead to serious problems.
There should be no argument about not allowing them home at this time. Not only are they Vincentians, but they have families here and there must be serious concerns about their separation from families in this time of crisis. They are bread winners who make their contribution to the country. So, for me the logistics is critical. Let us remember as we negotiate with the companies, that after this crisis is over most hope to get back their jobs.
The students are in a different category, but they must also be brought back. In the event that, for whatever reason some cannot return, funds should be provided to cater for them. I am sure that there are officials at the University, particularly at UWI who are mandated to ensure their care and safety.
Much of the discussion around Covid-19 has been politically driven. This is a time when the country needs more than ever to be united in tackling this beast. This could only happen if the Government up front makes provision for the Opposition to make its input and be part of the planning. Failure to do this will politicise the issue since the Opposition will have its views and should not be expected to remain quiet. The health and well -being of the nation is at stake!
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian