Letters & Opinion, The Bottom Line

Caution and Precaution Always Better Than Cure

By Earl Bousquet

Never mind the high-level backing and support for a return of the Spirit of Carnival to Saint Lucia this year, two things are still very Crystal-clear: John Public prefers a cautious than bold approach; and the Ministry of Health hasn’t yet given the all-clear.

Discussion are continuing with some stakeholders, but not much is being said about those other aspects of Carnival such as the J’Ouvert and Ole Mas, Calypsonians and musicians, that matter just as much?

The plan is for a yet-to-be-defined ‘Mas in a Bubble’ event, but, like it or not, there can be nothing ‘Safe’ about holding any event for ‘Only Vaccinated’ persons when it’s now proven, beyond doubt, that being vaccinated doesn’t guarantee immunity from COVID affection.

So, if that’s the case, why take the chance of the bubble getting a proverbial ‘Pin Jook’ and bursting into an unintended virus super-spreader for unpredictable or unexpected reasons not considered in the planning?

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The ‘Vax Mas’ plan was born since December 2021, when Omicron was already showing it’s the Maximum Super-spreader of all COVID Variants, making Delta look like a turtle in a horse race.

But since then, Omicron has also changed how the scientists see the virus, cloning itself many-times-over, leaving the World Health Organization (WHO) warning that it’s still the Variant of Variants and confirming that COVID will not only be with us for a very-long time to come, but also that vaccinations will have to keep-up with the birth of new variants – which they haven’t been able to, so far.

Much has changed since the December Plan for a Vax Mas announced, including the Prime Minister being not just the best living example of why it’s important that unvaccinated people vaccinate, but also proof-positive of the fact that while vaccination does not immunize everyone, it can nonetheless ensure the quick-recovery of persons over 60, with or without underlying conditions.

Much of the change has been both good and bad for those promoting a return to Saint Lucia Carnival without Social Distancing in July: non-jump-up stakeholders also want to get involved, even with the short window left to organise their integration into whatever is the National Carnival 2022 Plan, viral or hybrid.

But if there’s no national plan, then why have an event that will only open-up the government to criticism for facilitating The Vaccinated and punishing The Unvaccinated?

And given the demonstrated propensity (during the closing of the 2021 elections campaign) of revellers being ever-anxious to shake-off their COVID Fatigue, who is to say no-one will get ideas on how to help those who feel unfairly left-out to ‘Beat the System’?

Not even Testing-on-Entry will guarantee keeping SARS-CoV-2, Delta or Omicron – and all the other variants that will likely arise in the five months left to July – at bay at the entry gate.

And Contact Tracing will be another national nightmare, especially if the event is as successful as the planners and backers hope and just one unvaccinated person happens to carry any of the many variants into the bubble.

The pin-jook effect can give rise to thoughts for Ole Mas next year, but will it be or is it worth taking the chance in this way?

Unlike with the construction of the Darren Sammy stadium when Saint Lucia was the virgin that gave life to the first that everyone-else studied and built-on, this time around we’ll also have the experiences of Trinidad & Tobago and Grenada, Guyana and Barbados, as well as Venice Carnival in Italy, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Notting Hill in London, among others.

Saint Lucians have witnessed Five COVID Waves (from Christmas 2020 through to July 25, 2021) in two years at an average of one every five months – the fifth wave starting the day before the last General Elections (July 25) — followed by the unseen arrival of Delta within the first couple weeks of the new administration (August 2021).

And then came the invisible and stealthy Omicron that made its unseen landing somewhere here after November 2021, a presence to which our health authorities have only been able to make anecdotal reference, as the scientists haven’t located it.

In the meantime, a three-year-old is the first child to die from COVID while we watch US regulators ‘Play Mas’ with American vaccine manufacturers racing to be the first to get a vax for children approved.

One of the interesting things about the post-Omicron rise in the number of persons testing positive was that it was the result of more people deciding to get tested after seeing the effects of Omicron around them and on their TV screens.

The shock effect and the results were positive, if only because the higher numbers gave a real indication of just how bad things were (and maybe still are…) and it would be better to concentrate on navigating the island around and out of the current latest COVID-related developments at the global and regional levels, some promising, some spelling More Bad News.

Fact is, we may very well also be Playing Mas with our own lives and livelihoods by placing emphasis on making life look and feel better for The Vaccinated and leaving The Unvaccinated to feel deprived of an equal ‘Right to Play Mas’ just because they haven’t yet been convinced to vaccinate.

But come-what-may, the overriding factor will be the State of COVID here in July 2022 – rate of transmission and vaccination, availability of hospital space to address any unexpected increase in infection rates after ‘Vax Mas’, if the island gets a ‘Sixth Wave’ after the Easter Holidays and if even the best safety measures in this fight against an invisible enemy prove inadequate.

With citizens’ lives at stake of becoming COVID steak if too many mistakes are made or mis-steps taken, the health authorities must continue to have the final say and should not be rushed by the political directorate for the sake of ‘Bachannal’.

After all, we all know that Precaution is (always) better than Cure – and that’s The Bottom Line!

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