Stressing the need to be ever vigilant

We have a concern, one in which we will place squarely at the feet of the lead authority on the coronavirus pandemic in the land, our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sharon Belmar-George.

We note with satisfaction that over the past 15 months Dr. George’s steady hand on the wheel of the COVID-19 ship has avoided many pitfalls. However, we believe she needs to take action on an unfolding, yet troubling scenario, which if left alone could undo much of what has been done to safeguard the nation against the virus.

Our concern stems from weekly scenes of United Workers Party supporters and those of the Saint Lucia Party, all decked out in their respective party paraphernalia, engaging in wild celebrations that are devoid of the established protocols for COVID-19.

Some of these celebrations are spontaneous while others are orchestrated, however all have the potential to be super spreaders of the virus.

We all know the story of Saint Lucians’ reluctance to vaccinate. We also know of the daily reminders from the Ministry of Health to wash hands, wear a mask, distance ourselves from each other, and the almost day-by-day pronouncements of identified positive cases.

How could we, on one hand, say all the right things to avoid the virus yet at the same time do all the wrong things which will attract it?

And herein lies our concern, more so, now that we are recording increase cases of the COVID-19 British variant. Just over two weeks ago Dr. Belmar-George herself stated that all of the cases with the British variant are nationals who numbered 41 in all.

And as much as we have yet to diagnose a case in country with the Delta variant, be reminded that such a scenario is not far-fetched. This variant is described as “the most transmissible” mutation to date.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) last week told journalists at a regular briefing, that Delta has been identified in at least 85 countries and is “spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations”.

“As some countries ease public health and social measures, we are starting to see increases in transmission around the world”, he said.

We seem to be relaxing the rigid hold we had on the virus. Government last week reduced the curfew hours, allowed more people to assemble together and took other decisions that gave the impression that Saint Lucia has somehow gained, or is gaining mastery over the virus, therefore, its citizens and visitors can now engage in what we call “pre-COVID-19 living”.

We seem to have forgotten that viruses evolve and that by preventing transmission we stem the emergence of variants. In simple terms, more transmission means more variants while less transmission means less variants. Therefore, it is urgent for us to recognise that we can prevent transmission through the consistent application of the COVID-19 protocols AND VACCINATION.

In fact, we are not out of the woods yet when it comes to the virus. We are still deep in the woods as Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead on COVID-19, said, “the world situation is very fragile” and “countries must be cautious”.

Noting that the Delta variant has proved “extremely contagious in any country it reaches”, she cautioned that it is being transmitted among unvaccinated people, “even in countries with high percentages of immunization”.

“The Delta variant can make the epidemic curve exponentially”, added Dr. Van Kerkhove.

There is nothing more we can add to that to show the need for us to be cautious and for the highest authority in the land on COVID-19 to keep wielding the heavy stick.

But the Delta and British variants are not the only worrying mutations. According to the WHO expert, “there is a constellation of variants circulating”, including sub-variants, four of which are very worrying.”

“Vaccines and treatments work, but these viruses can evolve” she said, and the existing shots “may not work” over time, emphasizing again that to minimize outbreaks, everyone must continue to maintain public health measures.

We say no more on this. The warning shot is both loud and close enough. These political gatherings where protocols are not observed throughout must stop. The political parties could have their messages spread through other means rather than the weekly mass assemblies in villages, bars and other small places.

Will we see responsible leadership among our political leaders? Only time and the cemeteries will tell.

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