(PRESS RELEASE) – Former chief medical officer, Dr Patrick Martin has called for the lifting of some restrictions to prevent tsunamis of depression, hunger, anger and social unrest.
In a commentary headlined: “Living With COVID-19, Part 1,” the veteran pediatrician said residents of St. Kitts and Nevis have to become accustomed to living with COVID-19.
“A safe and effective vaccine could be 12 to 18 months away, if at all. Before then, restrictions have to be lifted to prevent tsunamis of depression, hunger, anger and social unres,” said Martin, who is of the view that “of all the restrictions to be lifted, border re-opening has the highest risk.”
“There will be a second wave of virus importation, in-country spread, and the possibility of high levels of illness, and strained health and social care services,” said Dr Martin who recalled that the first wave commenced in mid-March.
“Since then, more than two 14-day incubation periods have passed with 15 confirmed cases. Local models did predict an explosive surge of cases, hospitals overwhelmed with thousands of patients, and hundreds of deaths. Mercifully, such worst-case scenario has not occurred up to this point. Therefore, there is a window of opportunity to review and refine plans before the expected second wave hits,” said Martin.
He said the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended criteria for lifting restrictions and although they are sound but not novel.
“In essence, each country should ensure they have well-resourced capacities to detect, contact trace, contain, test, treat, protect the most vulnerable, and effectively communicate. The said capacities define what it means to have a highly-performing health system in a well-run country,” said the former CMO.
“Consequently, St. Kitts and Nevis’ second wave plan should prioritize the maximum strengthening of health protection, health promotion, and prevention services. They include border control, surveillance, comprehensive testing, government facility for quarantine, workplace safety and health, and the social safety net, particularly essential food and medicine supplies, and psychological wellness,” Dr Martin said.
He is further of the view that those services are more cost-beneficial than in-hospital treatment services.
“Until there is a vaccine, these non-pharmaceutical interventions represent the best that can be done to keep medical ward and ICU admissions low and manageable during the second wave, and beyond,” said Dr Martin.
Emphasizing that COVID-19 is a major health and economy issue, Dr Martin opined that a truly national response is one led by an all-party, whole-of-society body.
“If mobilized now, the immediate strategic objective should be to design and execute a homegrown plan for social and economic stability for the next 3 to 6 months,” said.
He further pointed out that In the interim, all of the official pronouncements indicate the authorities are confident the first wave situation is under control.
“Therefore, there is clear justification for a state of phased easing. Businesses can operate from dawn to dusk subject to owner-enforced physical distancing measures. Farmers and fishers must get back to work because “America First” could mean seizure of the next 57 containers of food. Psychologically, citizens need a break from the bad news networks, and enjoy physical activities and light moments again, all hygiene and distancing protocols observed.