St Lucia’s deputy prime minster presents nebulous concepts to ‘unvaxxed’ carnival activities

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Minister for Tourism, Investment, Creative Industries, Culture and Information, Dr Ernest Hilaire 

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia – The Government of Saint Lucia (GOSL) ‘unvaxxed’ carnival activities have generated a flurry of letters and exposed the methodology to what experts term ‘silo governance’. On the flip side, the principles of GOSL concepts to ‘unvaxxed’ carnival activities have wittingly or unwittingly done tremendous damage to GOSL nebulous concepts and the immediate individuals.

The GOSL May 17, press release in an about-turn, said: “Saint Lucia Carnival 2022 can now enjoy the traditional ‘jump up’ from ‘Mega J to Mega J’. The parade of the bands is scheduled for 18 and 19 July,” while enlisting, special incentives for Carnival stakeholders.

Saint Lucia Carnival 2022 offered 100 percent waiver, returns to traditional ‘jump up’ amid COVID-19 sixth-wave

In response, the St Lucia Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA) registered its firm opposition to ‘unvaxxed’ carnival, said:

“As physicians we are fully aware that the paucity of social activities during this pandemic has had far-reaching, negative implications for the mental health of our people but we cannot and will not in good conscience support the sanctioning of unsafe mass crowd events. We must as a country prioritize the well-being of our people and the education of our children. This move will undoubtedly sound the death knell for the vaccination campaign which has been exceedingly sluggish.”

St Lucia Medical and Dental Association states opposition to  ‘unvaxxed’ carnival

The Letter to SLMDA – May 20th 2022 from the ministry of tourism, investment, creative industries, culture and information, Dr Ernest Hilaire, to president of the  St Lucia Medical and Dental Association, Dr Merle Clarke, was forwarded for comment by Caribbean News Global (CNG) to a renowned economist who said: “But what can you expect when governance seems to be in silos.”

Excepts from another source is captured in a letter: “St Lucia’s deputy prime minster admits to cognitive misalignment a doctor can fix – ‘unvaxxed’ carnival activities” noted: “The letter from Dr Hilaire, albeit plagued with cognitive misalignment, is well within the parameters a doctor can fix, in his miserable attempt to justify ‘unvaxxed’ carnival activities, July 7- 20, 2022.”

St Lucia’s deputy prime minster admits to cognitive misalignment a doctor can fix – ‘unvaxxed’ carnival activities

Silo governance

The opening paragraph of Dr Hilaire’s letter, reads:

“I would have welcomed an opportunity for a meeting where we could have exchanged our views on this matter and avoid the public circulation of letters. The ministry has been involved in extensive discussions with all stakeholders including the Ministry of Health (MOH) on the hosting of carnival. Whilst all stakeholders do not agree on everything recommended by the MOH, we have tried to understand and appreciate the views of each stakeholder and to design an approach that provides some satisfaction to everyone.”

In essence, the opening paragraph of Dr Hilaire’s letter is ill-defined and admits to “selective inclusion, selective transparency and accountability (silo governance) with stakeholders.” And in the corrective order of governance has seemingly sidestepped the chief medical officer authority to announce unvaxxed’ carnival activities. This is a major national public health policy with medical and national security consequences.

But, according to the minister:

“We can assure you that the decision to move to allow a more open carnival celebration was a difficult one. As minister, I am primarily responsible to provide leadership for the advancement of the creative industries and tourism; […]. He continued: “Do let me first present the historical context. […]”

To be fair to readers and notwithstanding the question by local advisors to the GOSL and hinge men as to the relevance of CNG, it is inapplicable to analyze a non-medical doctor’s historical context to a medical emergency – COVID-19.

Instead, the ministers Letter to SLMDA – May 20th 2022 – presents an opportunity for optimal alignment, in what is described as a “cognitive misalignment a doctor can fix.”

Nebulous concepts of ‘unvaxxed’ carnival activities

Dr Hilaire’s letter, reads:

“Of course since our announcement last year, a lot has changed. […]Countries have responded by introducing liberal protocols and in some cases, even abandoning the protocols all together. There are some countries with very low vaccination rates which have responded in a similar manner. Based on observation, Saint Lucians, rightfully or wrongfully, have adopted the same mindset and living with a more liberal approach.”

The minister cited:

Gros Islet Friday Night, Rodney Bay Strip and Micoud Village. Over the past weekends, we have celebrated Easter, Mother’s Day and First Communion, all with large gatherings of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons. There is no requirement that gatherings should be of only vaccinated persons.”

Here’s a tongue twister to more nebulous concepts, protocols and safeguards

“You strongly recommended that the decision be reconsidered and that vaccination be a requirement for all attendees of carnival events. My ministry will be always be subjected to the decisions of cabinet and so will be guided if such a decision is taken,” the minister added.

“It is interesting to note that since Saint Lucia announced the hosting of carnival, most other Caribbean countries have announced hosting music events and carnival, some being held before our festivities in July. It would be so useful and constructive to find out what protocols and measures were taken by these countries and to advice on what approaches we can use to make our Carnival safer.”

However, consider his scrabble recourse:

“I am not sure the most useful approach would be to return to the singular requirement that participants and attendees must be vaccinated; certainly not when the same persons can gather at so many other mass gatherings and events now and then, without the requirement to be vaccinated.”

The minister’s convolution continues:

“Rest assured that we will make a determined effort to encourage vaccination and encourage the participants and attendees to follow the protocols and safeguard themselves and their loved ones. I can also assure you that should we need after further consultations with stakeholders and the CMC and ministry of health, to modify our approach based on the prevailing situation then we will.”

Conclusion

The deputy prime minster’s letter and the evolving GOSL policy is suitably described in a request for comment – by CNG from a Saint Lucian adept.

“There-in lies the dangers of bullying, post-truth, manipulation, false equivalence/vacuous narratives and subterfuge through opportunistic spheres of influence over more relevant professionals and institutions charged with protecting the nation most prized healthcare asset … the lives of its citizens … is troubling and cause for concern.”

“National Public Health policy sandwiched between political and economic expediency is problematic!”

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