St Lucia struggles with COVID-19 and back to school despair

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Minister for Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs, Moses Jn Baptiste, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Sharon Belmar-George and Minister for Education, Sustainable Development, Innovation, Science, Technology and Vocational Training, Shawn A. Edward

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia – Notwithstanding reporting and communication apparatus, the Centers for Disease Controls (CDC), ostensible confusing messaging, the guidance of the ministry of health, Saint Lucia, on January 10, 2022, in a press release attributed to the ministry of health, said: “As of January 9, 2022, Saint Lucia has diagnosed a total of 15,097 cases in the country, with 1190 active cases presently. The daily infection rate for the last seven days is 99 per 100,000 population per day, with a 36 percent testing positivity rate and a transmission rate of 3.3 percent. We have noted a total of 306 COVID-19 deaths. We have 21 positive cases admitted at the Respiratory Hospital, 1 case is critically ill and four are severely ill.”

At the time of publication, Monday evening (January 10) an update from the ministry of health confirmed more COVID-19 cases – a total of 271 new cases of COVID-19.

“These samples were processed on Sunday, January 9, 2022 at the Ezra Long Laboratory and Laboratory Services and Consultations Limited from a total of 629 samples, which were collected from January 7, 2022, to January 9, 2022. This number of positive cases makes up 43.08 percent of all the samples processed on that date. These new cases bring the total number of cases diagnosed in country to date to 15, 372. The ministry of health also reports three new COVID-19 deaths and one new COVID- 9 related death. To date, the total number of COVID-19 deaths in country is 238 and the total number of COVID-19 related deaths is 72.”

“Confirmation was also received of the recovery of 51 individuals diagnosed with COVID-19. This brings the number of active cases in country to date to 1, 586. Currently, there are 22 positive cases of COVID-19 admitted at the Respiratory Hospital, of which one of these active cases is in critical care and four of them are severely ill.”

While admitting that a fifth wave commenced December 16, 2021, nothing substantial, scientific or practical to break the cycle of infection and control has emerged.

Thus, what is the path forward?

According to the ministry of health: “1,967 cases have been diagnosed with an average of 82 cases per day. Women account for 58 percent of the cases and ten COVID-19 deaths have been recorded,” interestingly, “tourists account for nine percent of the cases. The prevalence increase is noted mainly in the Castries, Gros-Islet, Dennery and Babonneau districts,” as reported January 10.

Caribbean News Global back_to_school696 St Lucia struggles with COVID-19 and back to school despair

However, with the insistence on face to face learning, and the non-availability of a protracted hybrid learning model, supported by systems and infrastructure, back to school commenced Monday, January 10, with much anxiety from parents, the school transport system and the Teachers Union. And according to the Teachers Union, they felt blindsided by the decision to reopen school on Monday.

How could that happen? This is indeed precarious and more consistent with an arbitrary administration of the past. This type of decision making and management style is certainly not expected, if one considers the cleverness of the new administration.

However, on Monday, Shawn Edward, minister for education, apologized to the St Lucia Teachers Union (SLTU) for not consulting them on the reopening of school, explained:

“I’ve said time and again that the school is the safest place for children to be,” Edward explained. “We are grappling with a pandemic that has been around for some time but we cannot allow the pandemic to get the better of us.” He, however, affirming, the lack of ‘protracted hybrid learning model’ stating: “They’ve been home for several months and the online modality that we resorted to has not had the kind of impact that we wanted, so the more time children spend in school, the better it will be for our country.”

Caribbean News Global Omicron_varient200 St Lucia struggles with COVID-19 and back to school despair

Is Omicron variant in St Lucia? 

In furtherance of ‘strengthening of the COVID-19 protocols for the New Year’s weekend,’ the minister for health advised:

The collective desire of the ministry of health, the NCMC and the Cabinet, has been to develop protocols that would facilitate safe New Year’s Eve celebrations, while discouraging high risk and illegal behaviour. The feeling is that it ought not to be that case where those who observe the protocols are penalized because of the behaviour of those who don’t.” 

Meanwhile, the inner workings of the NCMC is evolving, one cannot escape the instructiveness of “being smart, but not clever.”

“I believe that at the very least, what is required is that governments be upfront with their people and share the reasons for their decisions, the assumptions that drive them, the likely risks involved in unintended outcomes and how they will be addressed.”

Hitherto, the NCMC is ostensibly an ancient ornament in an evolving public health emergency – COVID-19. The indispensable thus leads to accepting that “everything else is collateral damage by exposing existing contradictions and faultlines.”

However, the ministry of health, January 10, ‘Safe COVID-19 guidance for school re-opening,’ reads:

“We continue to note increases in most of the public health indicators over the last seven days, the transmission rate, test positivity rate, increased active cases as we manage the 5th wave in the country. We have increased surveillance for the Omicron variant which is characterized for the high level of transmission and we still have the Delta variant in circulation locally. Data collected from contact tracing interviews revealed the top areas of transmission include large beach parties and boat rides, public bars and private parties and events and large family gatherings.”

Notable, as of January 10, a total of 50, 063 individuals have been fully vaccinated. Another 6,152 are partially vaccinated and 4, 921 have received their booster shot, from a population of 180,000.

CNG Insights, relying on the revised meaning to balance “ lives and livelihood” the remodelling from curfew to “confinement” – meaning – “the state of being forced to stay in a prison or another place which you cannot leave” –  and “the collective desire of the ministry of health, the NCMC and the cabinet” […] may have unwittingly and/or wittingly exposé policy incoherence ( public health, national security, the politics, and crude reality of economic self-indulgence) and recovery.

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