There is no denying that with Covid-19, we are faced with a great challenge. A challenge that changes as the virus mutates. This unprecedented crisis needs a genuinely national response. The NDC has always supported and participated in the fight against Covid-19, because we believe that this national crisis requires input from all our people.
Although the current administration regularly speaks of unity and collaboration, it has in fact been reluctant to embrace all stakeholders in the fight against Covid-19. The government needs to be much more inclusive if we are to win this battle.
Now that Pfizer, and the AstraZeneca vaccines are available, we are calling on all people of influence among us, to get involved and send the message that choosing one of these two options will help us to successfully get through this crisis. The risk of hospitalization and death is much greater for those who get Covid-19 and are unvaccinated. Yet, vaccine hesitancy is perhaps the single greatest risk to Grenada presently. We therefore encourage our people to listen to the science from reputable, trustworthy sources when making your choices.
NDC acknowledges that it will be virtually impossible to foresee all possibilities of breeches at our borders. However, we believe that certain measures can be taken now that will enhance border security, thereby offering greater protection to our people. According to the experts, the incubation period for the Delta variant of Covid-19 is 3 to 5 days. Vaccinated people can contract and spread the virus as easily as unvaccinated people.
NDC therefore recommends that the quarantine period for everyone entering Grenada, be increased to no less than 5 days, vaccinated or not. We see no reasonable justification for stipulating a shorter quarantine period for vaccinated people.
The announcement by the Prime Minister in his national address, that there are now 30 active cases with the possibility of that number rising, suggests that the virus is likely spreading through our communities. To curb further spread, NDC recommends that the government implements free testing for all persons wishing to be tested. Not just those who are contact-traced as a result of possible exposure. Government should embark on random testing nationwide and this drive should be well publicized. Increased testing may well lead to increased vaccinations.
Further, given the spike in infections, we suggest that quarantine facilities should be available for locals testing positive. This will help in efficiently monitoring those infected and reduce the likely spread within households.
If the number of cases continue to rise, further strain will be put on the frontline workers engaged in areas like contact tracing and monitoring persons in isolation and quarantine. We therefore recommend training more workers in those fields. This can include some of the people in the de-bushing gangs.
Further, we urge the government to prepare for the eventuality of an increased need for a designated Covid-19 unit, properly equipped with beds, ventilators, PPE and other necessary facilities. We are concerned that well into the second year of the pandemic, we have not increased the quantity of these equipment at our health facilities.
One of the shortcomings of the current administration in handling Covid-19, is its failure to lead a robust public education campaign. The results are that disinformation has taken root, medical and other relevant experts have not been sufficiently involved and the nation has been largely subjected to a tone of condescension and arrogance from officials, especially the Minister of Health. This failure to engage in robust public education, the NDC believes, has significantly contributed to the high level of vaccine hesitancy.
The NDC therefore supports the call for social partners and stakeholders to become more involved in this aspect of the fight against Covid-19. However, since the main responsibility lies with the government, we recommend that its public education campaign can be more streamlined and targeted towards high-risk groups, such as persons with chronic diseases, who are more likely to become very sick if infected.
The approach recommended above is likely to have greater success than the government’s approach to support and encourage mandatory vaccination. For the avoidance of doubt, NDC is not in favor of mandatory vaccination. To get vaccinated should always remain a personal choice, and no one should be forced to choose between their livelihood and the vaccine. We believe in our people. We believe that with a robust and well executed public education campaign, the vast majority will make the right choice.
While we support the call for greater collaboration among social partners, the government must lead. Government should therefore convene a multipartite body, involving the private sector (including the medical and legal associations), the unions and other bodies representing non-unionized workers, and other groups including political parties and NGOs.
We encourage the private sector to get involved in the public education campaign with public service announcements on radio, television, social and electronic media. The telecommunications companies can play a key role in winning this fight.
Finally, NDC encourages the government to be more fair, just and equitable in applying the regulations. The blatant double standards repeatedly exposed, operate to increase the restlessness and high level of defiance we have seen recently. Attacking and disrespecting people like Senator Rolanda Mc Queen, who speak of the loopholes in the system, in her case, based on her personal experience, only serves to create an atmosphere of anger, division and discord. In this stressful time, our people need understanding and compassion from our leaders, not bullying and chastising.
Our economy has been hammered by this pandemic and recovery will be slow; people have lost their jobs, businesses have closed or contracted, prices have been rising on food, fuel, electricity, and just about everything. There is no doubt that poverty has been increasing. People are hungry. People are suffering. We urge the government to review its priority areas to bring more relief to the people. For example, in this time when needs are great, the government should not be spending in excess of $30 million on traffic lights. Also, the government should speedily resolve its dispute with Ambassador Newfield and the Kawana Bay owners, to avoid having to pay out another hefty judgment.
NDC urges everyone in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique to observe the safety protocols of regular hand washing and sanitizing, wearing masks, social distancing, maintaining healthy lifestyles and getting vaccinated.