By Dr Alphonsus St Rose, Independent Candidate for Choiseul/Saltibus
A pandemic is a medical disease (infectious and contagious in nature, Covid-19 in this instance) that has spread worldwide causing significant illness and death (morbimortality). Undoubtedly, the extent and impact of the damage caused by this Covid-19 pandemic on a political, economic and social scale is unpredictable and unprecedented. It is for this reason that the government, the opposition and the citizenry/civil society, all need to be very clear on the seriousness of this Covid-19 pandemic.
Covid-19’s natural history makes the execution of the protocols a work in progress with undoubtedly many gaps. Framing the best public health policies with the necessary prevention/containment/mitigation strategies while we await the release of a much-needed vaccine, must be driven by the best available convincing and scientific (evidence-based) data.
The trigger for this second (community spread) Covid-19 wave is multifactorial in its genesis. Clearly, containing and controlling Covid-19 is a moral and humanitarian imperative. This demands much needed honest and credible leadership from all our leaders. Any piecemeal, expedient and dilutional approach to handling this pandemic is a bad prescription.
Our most recent twenty-one-day positive case average (a sharply ascending J curve) is no flattering forecast of what is to come. How then do we prepare for that when both our front (principal) and back (potential) doors are open and porous? This clearly represents an exponential spread especially at the community level, which has to give us very serious reason for pause. Once this trend continues, more people will get sicker and death rates are expected to rise. When then, does a second shut-down become unavoidable? The public, for obvious reasons, needs to know where that case-threshold is set.
We would all like to manage “saving lives” and the “economy” at the same time. However, a pandemic is not a market or financial crisis at its core, never mind it does have far-reaching economic consequences.
It is disturbing to hear the “back-door vs front door”, “lives vs economy” theorists with our incumbent leaders blaming the citizens, while affording themselves much needed cover in relation to their inept handling the Covid-19 response.
Consider the fact that some of our leaders, sworn to uphold and defend our laws and protocols are the very ones who are least exemplary in public. Ignoring the protocols and turning on the citizenry as non-compliant and irresponsible is unacceptable.
When this administration sees it fitting to engage in political gaslighting of the citizenry, with the chief executive touting a conviction that this current Covid-19 rise is fundamentally a “back door” phenomenon, while his Chief Medical Officer (CMO) says there is no evidence to substantiate same, speaks volumes. There is no place in the lives of the citizenry for political and economic gerrymandering.
I do appreciate the fact that we the citizens do bear some measure of personal responsibility for our actions, any of which might enhance the community transmission of Covid-19. This is a time that demands an understanding of how modifications in attitude, mindset, behavior and culture are critical to defeating this pandemic. But the moral tone must be set by our leaders.
It is however, the government’s responsibility to keep the citizens safe and ensure a sustainable economy for the benefit of all. Leaders must motivate and inspire its people by the power of example rather than obscure its limitations when unable to attract national buy-in and compliance. Any administration that has not earned the trust and confidence of its people, will be seen by the citizens as not being credible.
The country has been in a disastrous state for some time now and we have been “broke” since pre-Covid-19. We became “broke” because over the years, our leaders have made poor and bad decisions on our behalf. Covid-19 simply exposed and magnified the underlying systemic corruption, inequalities, inequities, fiscal indiscipline as well as the squandering of our meagre resources. Our people have been subjected to unrestrained greed and profiteering while our elected leaders framed policies that were never substantially in the best interest of the bottom 90 percent.
And so, when we hear statements like “we cannot continue to choose lives over livelihoods” as “people can be healthy and still starve” from leaders or citizens, that is a troubling mindset to say the least. The majority of black and brown people of this country broadly speaking, have been in poverty and starving for forty-one years since independence.
Tell the citizens of this country that it is ok to dispense with their lives or loved ones in this pandemic to save an economy, one that has never worked for them. So, I ask the mundane question, save an economy for whom? That is not to say we must not try to save the economy, but context here is everything.
To the CMO, who has done a good job, may I respectfully sound a note of caution. Your primary responsibility is to save lives, not the political directorate or the economy at the expense of lives. That moral authority is inviolable. The citizens expect no less. This, is the people’s time.