IT was expected that the defeated United Workers Party (UWP) wouldn’t have taken long to, after the July 26 poll, continue politicizing the COVID pandemic, but (maybe) not so fast.
While its leader continues enjoying his Maple Leaf holiday in his other adopted homeland, his party issued a statement last weekend, less than a week after the first meeting of the new parliament, saying it was ‘alarmed’ about the rise in COVID-19 cases and calling on the government to ‘act decisively’ to ‘arrest this national health crisis’ and ‘avert any further loss of life.’
It didn’t seem to matter that the dreaded Delta variant might have arrived here during the election campaign, when the outgoing government evidently dropped the ball on adherence to and policing of the COVID protocols.
Nor that unvaccinated people are taking-up the few hospital beds available after the last administration did sweet nothing to increase the number, instead monetizing testing and quarantines and sending hundreds to ‘Home Quarantine’ at great risk and consequences for home, family and community.
Or that the UWP sounded like it had engaged emergency selective amnesia to forget that the 2001-2006 SLP administration undertook a national project to construct three brand-new hospitals that were near completion before the 2006 elections, which the then UWP administration put on the back burner for the next five years.
The party has apparently undertaken to conveniently forget too, that the subsequent 2011-2016 Labour administration did all it could to ensure the new OKEU Hospital was commissioned in keeping with requirement standards for the biggest European Union-funded project in the Eastern Caribbean.
And that the last Labour administration eventually put the Wellness Center to its originally-intended use – caring for the mentally unwell, providing services for persons considering suicide, etc.
Or that the same administration also fast-tracked completion of the St. Jude Hospital and brought it close to commissioning up to the 2016 elections, which the SLP lost.
It didn’t seem to matter that for a second five-year term in 15 years, the UWP – yet again — put completion of all three Labour-inspired hospital projects on the back burner.
It didn’t seem to matter that if two UWP administrations had not stopped the three new hospital projects, COVID-19 in 2020 would have met Saint Lucia with more than the barely 200 beds available (for a population of 180,000) when the pandemic was declared.
Nor that, despite activation of an eight-month national COVID emergency law driven by National Curfews and Lockdowns up to Election Day that would extend at least to October 2021 (240 days of non-stop Pandemic Fatigue) provided fertile ground for Preachers of Pandemic Doom and Gloom and Creators of Conspiracy Theories.
Or that never mind all the leadership provided to the Command Center by the loquacious former Tourism Minister (instead of the Minister for Health and Wellness) and despite the best efforts of the information teams at GIS and NTN, the government’s messaging never effectively got across.
It didn’t matter that during its 16 months in charge of handling the COVID-19 crisis, the island’s record of infections and deaths doubled that of all of the rest of the OECS put together and Herd Immunity became nothing but a sheepish phrase.
Or that there was early proof that vaccination levels had peaked as far back as June and Hesitance, Mistrust and absolute Refusal led to several instances of dumping expired vaccines.
It didn’t matter that The Chief Medical Officer and the President of the local doctors’ association both warned – before Election Day – that the careless promotion of a carnival atmosphere during the campaign’s final week could open the way for the ‘fourth COVID wave’ that started within a week after the elections.
Nor did it matter that long before the elections were called, unvaccinated persons were already largely influenced by the ‘Bad News’ about efficacy of the vaccines used worldwide, or that the number of persons here openly saying they would not vaccinate until and unless ‘the Cuban vaccine arrives’ was proof too that not all unvaccinated persons had fallen for the conspiracy theories and only wanted to await a vaccine they trust.
It didn’t matter that the last UWP government insisted on waiting for the much-delayed ‘not-for-profit’ and therefore less costly UN-provided COVAX series of promised Oxford AstraZeneca deliveries from the Serum Institute of India (SII), which further slowed-down after India got hit by the variant now named Delta.
Or that there was ‘Not a word, not a word, not a word’ from the outgoing government after lawyer and election candidate Richard Frederick referred on TV to a private arrangement for vaccine imports that smacked of both nepotism and unhealthy cost overruns.
The new government is clearly not playing the Blame Game, but in planning ahead it cannot not look-back at what it’s inherited.
What matters is that the Delta variant is here — and it’s this new administration’s immediate and urgent task and responsibility to say and do what is needed to bring the worsening situation under control.
But this new administration has inherited a COVID policy that absolutely ignored the Numbers and the Science and opted instead to subject the nation’s health and wellness to a series of irrational, irresponsible, questionable and costly stops and restarts.
The Numbers said it all – and from very early: It took much longer for the number of persons testing positive to move from 5,000 to 6,000 then from 6,000 to 7000; it also took almost less than half the number of Active Cases to double from 500 to 1,000; and the number of deaths is increasing correspondingly.
Same with the Science: 99.9% persons hospitalized for and dying from COVID-related deaths are/were unvaccinated; and no one has died here as a direct result of taking a COVID vaccination.
PM Pierre, who has repeatedly stated his government’s COVID policy will be driven by The Numbers and The Science, has also commendably sworn he will not abandon the COVID fight to the naysayers and the mind-benders applying the science of untruths through sophisticated horror stories targeted at the society’s most vulnerable.
Now he needs to ensure his Cabinet Ministers also follow the Numbers and the Science.
COVID-19 and the Delta Variant are not matters to be left to Calls of Conscience by Cabinet ministers, but instead should be such that all should make their vaccination status known.
The Prime Minister must point his Cabinet Ministers to Canada, where Members of the Provincial Parliament (MPP) are banned from attending meetings if they don’t vaccinate – and one was expelled from his party after revealing he and his wife had decided not to vaccinate ‘for personal reasons’.
The new government must avoid falling into the trap of discussing diversionary side-show issues like ‘rights’ and ‘mandates’ without also including its ‘duties’ and ‘responsibilities’ to protect the wealth of the entire nation’s health, as it was elected to.
No legal argument can justify anyone having (far less claiming) a ‘right’ to endanger the lives of others – even themselves, far less their families, relatives, friends and members of the public.
Both the Science and the Numbers have proven that fact, which is why Canada, Britain, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and other countries losing more lives in the COVID fight for much longer than Saint Lucia are not prescribing or mandating vaccination, but simply making vaccination an emergency national health requirement.
Countries across the world are quickly coming to the conclusion that unvaccinated people are a danger to themselves and the rest of the society and vaccinated persons definitely need to be protected against the unvaccinated – and which can only be done by making it a legal requirement for people to save themselves and avoid becoming carriers and transmitters of the most-deadly virus of the 21st Century.
Political Correctness is wholly incorrect when it comes to COVID-19 because the choice is not just about sounding right, but saying and doing what’s right.
As such, government ministers and decision makers must not cower to individual sensitivities of those misleading and the misled and say what the conspiracy theorists (who have us here in the first place) want to hear.
No government driven by Numbers and Science can offer flat-out guarantees that people who opt to simply continue to threaten the nation’s health and the wider good by refusing to vaccinate will never be required to make a choice between dying and saving lives – including their own.
Too many citizens 65-and-over (and with underlying conditions) and Under-18s remain unvaccinated to their possible peril, most because they have been misled into disbelieving national health cautions and ignoring protocols, or are simply confused by the unending sources of Fake COVID News.
The government must therefore continue to disregard the UWPs sudden discovery of its lost tongue and instead insist that Saint Lucians face-up to the reality of the COVID challenge that continues to threaten to force the new government to do what all others have refused to: create new cemeteries.