Castries, Saint Lucia, Wednesday November 10, 2021:– Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Sharon Belmar George is warning strongly against the increasing propensity by too-many citizens to simply ignore the COVID protocols and throw caution to the wind.
In a statement Tuesday (November 9), the CMO indicated that the current Fourth Wave that started July 25 (the day before the last General Elections) had yielded 7,208 new cases, at a rate of 69 daily.
There have also been 31,600 tests, she said, that yielded 170 of the 260 total COVID-19 deaths.
Citing “increased social activity” and “large-crowd activities” here “during the past three weeks”, the CMO urged citizens to assist the country “to sustain the gains already made in the Fourth Wave” through more and better adherence to protocols
According to Dr. Belmar George, “We are working to prevent further spikes in the coming festive season” and she called on the general public “to show more responsible behavior to keep our COVID numbers low.”
The CMO said the Health Ministry was working to ensure schools reopened safely, urged parents to vaccinate children, encouraged those with double-doses to take a free “Booster Jab” — and called on citizens to “continue to obey and observe the protocols.”
Meanwhile, there’s also growing concern in some local health quarters that with vaccinations rates here so-very-low, the island’s health authorities may be relaxing restrictions too-early — and too-quickly.
Citing trends suggesting the island may be recovering well-enough from the ‘Fourth Wave’ sparked in a big way by July 2021 election campaign activities that disregarded COVID-19 protocols, the government recently announced a combination of relaxation of restrictions and strengthening of penalties.
Curfew times have been shortened and Social Distancing and Mass Crowd gatherings have been or may be extended.
However, some medical professionals are warning that with the island’s vaccination rate very low on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) scale, this is no time to relax on restrictions.
According to a Vieux Fort-based physician in private practice, “It’s simply mad to lower our guard now when the rest of the world is tightening-up, especially in Europe and Asia, which have become the new global COVID epicenters.”
He continued, “Whether we measure it by vaccinations being mandatory or not, the fact is that this administration inherited a Saint Lucia with more cases and deaths than all the other OEC S islands combined — plus the Delta Variant.”
“Next to Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he added, “we have the lowest number of vaccinations, so this is not a time to relax, but instead it should be a time to do more to discourage complacency.”
The doctor, who also provides services to St. Jude Hospital, told Saint Lucia News Online (SNO):
“We need to increase our vaccination rate and the easiest way is to make it required in the health and public service sectors that interact with people and explaining the situation to workers as to why certain actions have to be taken to protect them…”
He continued, “It is the responsibility of the government to take care of all the people’s health, including those who oppose vaccination.
“So, it is necessary to make vaccinations required for certain jobs where people-to-people contact can hasten the spread of the virus, which is worse now under Delta than under SARS-CoV-2.”
And the doctor is right…
Saint Lucia’s vaccination rate is third from the bottom within CARICOM and the OECS.
Figures supplied to SNO indicate the following Caribbean Community (CARICOM) vaccination rates per country: Anguilla 60.5 %, the British Virgin Islands 52.5 %, Antigua and Barbuda 50.8 %, Saint Kitts and Nevis 45.8 %, Barbados 44.4 %, Trinidad and Tobago 43.8 %, Dominica 35.1%, Bahamas 32.3%, Guyana 31.4%, Montserrat 28.3 %, Grenada 27.8 %, Saint Lucia 23.1%, St. Vincent and the Grenadines 16.6 % and Jamaica 14.5 %.
However, local health officials, citing a recent four percent (4%) decrease in infection rates and 309 active cases as of Tuesday, have been suggesting the island may be winning the battle, at least for now…
But this does not read well for the southern-based doctor, who told Saint Lucia News Online (SNO): “Never mind the slight decrease in the numbers. That’s good news, but at a vaccination rate of third-to-the-last in the entire CARICOM region, this is not a time for our health officials to boast about how good we are doing.
“In my view, that’s giving the wrong impression that we have COVID-19 under control, but we don’t. We are still very far from that…”
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Sharon Belmar Georges has indicated that since the Fourth Wave started there’ve been 7,208 cases registered (up to Tuesday, November 9) from 31,600 tests, with 170 of the 260 total COVID-19 deaths, 56% of whom were males.
She also noted that the majority of cases on the island are “from Castries, Vieux Fort, Gros Islet and Babonneau.”
But the southern-based doctor said, “It might be counter-productive to claim victory too early and end-up encouraging complacency…
“This is about people’s lives — not a competition between parties in government.
“So, the administration needs to be careful about taking decisions too-early that we will all regret later.”
The doctor continued, “With Christmas coming, many want to feel they will finally be able to have a good time after two years of COVID without Christmas.”
“But what’s the use of planning or encouraging people to celebrate Christmas, when we don’t know who among us will live to see it?”
He concluded, “That’s how serious it is… Christmas may be around the corner, but when it comes to COVID, we never know who will make it to the corner…
“So, it’s better to do what must be done to ensure we see Christmas…
“And the only sure way right now, is for those who haven’t been vaccinated to make sure they do — and long before Christmas!”