Two news items grabbed my attention this past week: ‘The Queen Tests Positive For COVID’ and PAHO Says Complacency Contributed To Deadly COVID-19 Surge In The Americas’.
The brief BBC News item confirmed that the coronavirus had penetrated all the defenses at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace was on full-COVID-alert.
The Palace said The Queen was experiencing “mild cold-like symptoms” but expects to continue “light duties” at Windsor over the coming week; and she “will continue to receive medical attention and will follow all the appropriate guidelines.”
The BBC also didn’t forget to remember to report that the Queen’s “Eldest son and heir, the Prince of Wales, tested positive on 10 February, after meeting his mother on 8 February…” and other palace staff also tested positive.
The second Item of Interest and Concern (to me) was that PAHO Director Carissa Etienne told her latest weekly briefing that “Complacency around mask wearing, travel, and indoor gatherings created a perfect opportunity for the new Omicron variant to spread rapidly throughout the region and increase deaths.”
As a result, she alerted, “Many places had remained just as they were before.”
Dr Etienne warned that “Reduced public health measures were insufficient to reduce the scale of this wave and now we’re dealing with the consequence: a rise in infections is driving a surge in deaths.”
She noted that while COVID-19 infections declined by 31% last week (across the wider PAHO region), deaths continued to rise by 5.6%.
And she added: “Undoubtedly, Omicron overtook us… and right now, we’re losing far too many lives because we didn’t use all the tools we had developed to slow the spread and prevent infections.”
More than half who’ve died in PAHO member-states were “over the age of 65,” she reported, but many other deaths occurred among those yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
And unvaccinated people — of all ages — still fill up hospitals and ICU beds.
The PAHO Director also indicated that “Omicron has shown that the vaccines we have at hand can protect most of us from severe illness and death.”
She therefore warned that PAHO countries must be vigilant about implementing public health measures quickly, recommending they “must adjust hospital systems to accommodate new surges, while ensuring health care workers have the tools they need to safely treat COVID-19 patients.”
“We need to activate our responses more rapidly to keep pace with the current wave and stay ahead of future surges of this very fast, very serious virus,” she added.
The two items got my attention because in the first case involving The Queen, (I always held that it all boiled down to the complacency the PAHO Director has long been warning about.
London is as guilty as many PAHO member-states when it comes to the complacency Director Etienne worried about – and at no worse time…
Just as The Queen’s eldest son (Prince Charles) contracted COVID a few days after her 70th year on The Royal Throne, just days after his younger brother Andrew settled a sleazy, unroyal sex-related case out-of-court and just as the UK press was starting to blame Charles for adding to his mother’s 2022 woes, up came this new story about Charles being under investigation for an alleged ‘Cash for Honours’ scheme involving a foreign billionaire who funds his charities.
Just imagine what could have been had the Queen and the Prince not been vaccinated.
A fortnight earlier, when the Omicron Variant started metamorphosing into new sub-variants and some scientists were predicting it may mark the beginning of the end of COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General warned it was too early to dream of the end of the pandemic and warned against easing restrictions too early.
But the Caribbean continues to be selective in which measures governments will adopt from the experiences of Europe and North America, with some going the UK way (reducing restrictions) and others opting for the more cautionary approach of the US.
Despite the PAHO Director’s widely-publicized warnings, there are still Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations relaxing COVID protocols to facilitate the likes of holiday partying at home and approved locations, while others restrict all public national celebrations – including Carnival to Independence and Republic anniversaries – to virtual, online features.
Fact is: the COVID fighters at the Royal Household either dropped their guard, overestimated the palace’s related defense capabilities and/or underestimated the capability of the virus to overcome and penetrate even their best defenses, palace drawbridges raised or not.
At a time when Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Downing Street were being accused of partying over Wine and Cheese while The Queen was mourning her husband’s death last year (with protocols still in place), here was The Queen being shown to the world on TV conversing happily and shaking hands with visitors to the palace, meeting military personnel and cutting her Jubilee Cake — all without a mask and at no social distance.
And just days before, the Duke and Duchess of York (Prince Charles and his wife) were doing the same at another function attended by Chancellor Rishi Sunak — who’s currently being fingered as a possible heir to the Prime Minister’s Throne should his detractors throw the ruling Conservative ‘Tory’ Party Leader under a London bus over fears he’s become a liability to their re-election chances.
But The Queen and the PAHO Director have both – again — made it absolutely clear that protocols should always apply across-the-board; and Omicron is not a variant to play games with, whether in palaces or parliaments.
All that sauce aside, though, like her son Prince Charles, Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre (who recently tested positive despite being vaccinated and boosted) and all other Heads of State and Government who’ve contracted COVID-19, including the UK PM, she is simple living proof — at 95 — that being vaccinated save lives.
And That’s The Bottom Line!