There are eight member countries of the East Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) being one of them. In the 15 or so months since COVID-19 has been part of our reality, none of these small island states has been spared the wrath of the pandemic, although some have had better health and / or economic outcomes than others.
Every day, the East Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) tracks COVID-19 in the sub-region, publishing charts showing our progress with vaccine administration, and how we are faring with keeping COVID-19 infections at bay.
By both measures, St Vincent and the Grenadines is dead last. We are at the bottom of the heap when it comes to vaccinations, and also in relation to our infection numbers.
As at yesterday, June 7, 5.8 per cent of the population in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) had been fully vaccinated, while 12.6 per cent had received only one dose. We are trailing far behind countries like St Kitts & Nevis where 18 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated and 62.3 per cent has received one dose. In Anguilla, 36.8 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, while 60.3 per cent has received one dose.
If we look at active COVID-19 infections, yesterday SVG had 226 active cases, compared with zero active cases in four member states – Anguilla, Dominica, Grenada and Montserrat. In Antigua there are seven active cases, St Kitts – 17 and St Lucia – 150.
Where are we going wrong? What are we missing here in St Vincent and the Grenadines? We’d wager that our situation is as a result of overall complacency and an attitude among far too many people that a crisis does not exist in SVG in relation to COVID-19. What more will have to happen here before we consider our situation a crisis – which by definition is a time of intense difficulty or danger? Is it that we consider the situation we are in to be not very dangerous or difficult to manage?
The situation is dangerous when one considers that only 18 per cent of the nurses at the nation’s main health facility – the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital — are vaccinated. The situation is dangerous when, even with our rising COVID-19 numbers, hundreds of excited, screaming, unmasked Vincentians saw nothing wrong with sitting in close proximity of each other at a sporting event.
If the situation were not difficult to manage, we would have found a way by now to convince to take the jab, those unvaccinated nurses or even our teachers, who despite the rising number of COVID-19 cases among children, still refuse to be vaccinated or even tested.
Maybe if we first accept and declare that we are dealing with a dangerous, difficult situation, our behaviour would reflect that reality.