NewsFinal ‘Vaxxed Mas’ decision rests with Health Ministry

St. Lucia News OnlineJuly 1, 202220429 min

Government’s announcement of plans to host Carnival 2022 for only vaccinated revelers has drawn mixed reactions and responses — carnival enthusiasts naturally have embraced the idea, but critics say it discriminates against the unvaccinated; skeptics claim that with the Delta variant here and the Omicron variant on its way, Saint Lucia Carnival 2K22 can easily go down in history as Saint Lucia’s deadly COVID Super Spreader event.

Called a “Vaxxed Mas”, the proposed event is expected to take place at an enclosed venue (like the Darren Sammy Grounds) to isolate vaccinated revelers. But some are also concerned that no national event could be successfully held in a bubble, excluding contact with non-vaccinated persons providing services outside the venue.

The idea of a Vaxxed Mas is very-much welcomed by revelers who’ve missed two carnivals (2020 and 2021) and have shown their thirst and hunger for Carnival by effectively disregarding the COVID protocols to virtually ‘Play Mas’ during the last two weekends of the July 2021 General Elections campaign.

But the cynics and critics say the idea is being pushed by like-minded carnival enthusiasts in government with stakes in Carnival, who are more eager to show they can host a “safe” carnival rather than cautiously desist from arranging mass crowd activities.

And with the arrival of the Delta variant just four months ago and the inevitable arrival of the Omicron variant with a higher rate of contagion, the arguments against Carnival 2022 is strengthening and looking like a not-so-good idea.

However, in the meantime, a government press release says that “after several consultations between stakeholders and the Government, Department of Creative Industries & Culture and the Department of Health,” the Cabinet of Ministers decided the country will host Saint Lucia Carnival 2022 with the name ‘The Vaxxed Mas’. The plan is for revelers, patrons, support staff and service providers to be fully vaccinated and within a bubble, to ensure safety.

The press release noted that “Saint Lucia Carnival is one of the Country’s biggest cultural displays and has had a significant cultural and economic impact” and lamented that it “had grown to become one of the biggest carnivals in the region and by all indications was set to continue on an upward trend, until the onset of Covid-19.”

Dr. Ernest Hilaire, Minister for Tourism, Investment, Creative Industries, Culture and Information, says that “as a carnival enthusiast who has been a part of carnival for the past 15 plus years,” he felt “it is critical that we continue to build on the hard work that was started by persons who have brought carnival to where it is now.”

The minister says, “We must also ensure that we preserve the public health of Saint Lucia while creating economic activity for our people to benefit from.” He noted that “Carnival is also a major part of our Tourism product which sees thousands of visitors coming to our shores to enjoy our island and its wonderful experiences.”

The minister also argued that “Those in the Creative Industries use the Carnival season as one of their avenues to showcase their talents, so we must continue to provide that platform to do so. It is even more important now after the almost two-year hiatus.”
The government release says, “Carnival 2022 will not take place in its traditional form, but all the necessary steps will be taken to ensure that the true spirit of Saint Lucia carnival is preserved.” It promises that “Strict guidelines and protocols will be implemented, and the authorities will ensure strict adherence in an effort to safeguard the health and wellness of all participants.”

The release indicated that the plan is “subject to the full approval of the Ministry of Health, according to established health protocols.” It also says, “The guidelines will be announced in due course, following further working consultations between the Ministry of Health and stakeholders.” It however urges Saint Lucians to “Let’s get vaccinated and enjoy the ‘Mas’!”

The clear intent of the plan appears to encourage unvaccinated persons to vaccinate, but the government’s critics are also Hell-bent on treating it as discrimination against unvaccinated persons – and a violation of people’s individual rights to Play Mas with gay abandon.
But there are also those who argue that if Trinidad & Tobago abandoned carnival for a third year running, Saint Lucia should draw on that decision in the interest of health and safety.

The press release indicated, even while the Cabinet Ministers support the Tourism Ministry’s innovative idea, the final decision rests with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, which is the final arbiter as to whether the event takes place or not.

Some sources close to the government have argued that the decision to host the novel event might have preceded publicly available information about Omicron variant – and as such, the increased risk of the presence of Omicron variant may be the deciding factor to call off the event.

The prime minister has always insisted he will go with the advice of the scientists and health professionals, so it’ll be up to the Ministry of Health and Wellness to advise the government appropriately whether Carnival 2022 takes place or not.

St. Lucia News Online

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