it is now known that we have 22 active Covid virus cases and that overall, the country has recorded 107 cases. We are informed, too, that one Grenadian returning home from SVG was tested positive. Following a big wedding in Mustique that attracted a number of overseas visitors, testing procedures have been put in place for Vincentians working there. Add to this news that positive cases have been increasing rapidly in some of the countries from which we continue to allow flights. A new variant of the virus has been found in the UK and many European countries are banning flights from the UK. Then the news from our neighbours is that positive cases of the virus have been spiking.
St Lucia and Grenada are among those countries. I checked with a friend in St Lucia and found that they have over 20 international flights per week. With knowledge that most of the cases of persons with the virus have been coming from overseas, one understands the reasons for the spike. Protocols I suspect are strictly monitored and adjusted but of course a single slip up can allow things to get out of hand. There are also, I am told, examples of St. Lucians returning from Europe having flown to Martinique and getting to St. Lucia by boats, getting around the regulations in place for recognised visitors. Fortunately for us we have perhaps about fives international flights per week. But then with our many inlets and bays it might be difficult to monitor all visitors entering the country. In fact, the PM has been warning people to be on the lookout for such travellers.
Against this background one has to express concern with what is happening at our Christmas activities. There are constant appeals for persons attending the festivities to adhere to protocols in place. But what are the protocols? Social/physical distancing, wearing masks and hand sanitising. The appeals for adhering to the protocols are largely ignored. In any event, how is it possible to have physical distancing at Nine Mornings and community lighting activities? I would not even mention the craziness with Sunday shopping! Shouldn’t we go beyond appealing to a society that is renowned for its ill-discipline? Should people not be forced to wear masks? I am not sure that physical distancing is possible unless the activity itself is reorganised.
Greater effort must be made to explain the protocols and the need to follow them. I am confused by those for visitors to this country. Tests must be done three days before travelling and repeated on arrival. There is a five-day quarantine at an approved hotel. If tested negative at the end of the five days, a nine-day quarantine at home follows. But there are situations I gather, where persons previously negative have on day two of the home quarantine been tested positive. Do persons on home quarantine mingle with other members of the home? Do the homes have the means of allowing the individual his own bathroom, for example? The person might have been buoyed by the fact that he/she was negative after the initial five-day quarantine and therefore had no qualms about mixing with family. If at some point while being on home quarantine, positive results are shown, what happens with other members of the home and persons with whom they had been associating at work, and elsewhere? How easy will contact tracing be?
I state the above based on information from the media, but many of us are confused. What is needed are regular media briefings so that the confusion can be removed, and any misinformation dispelled, if indeed there is misinformation.
For some strange reason Vincentians seem to think they are immune from this virus. Should the authorities not go beyond appealing to good senses and institute more stringent measures? We must be warned. God is not a Vincentian as many of us claim during the hurricane period!
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian