NCMC Chair Cletus Springer says he has a problem not being able to explain how the government arrives at decisions regarding COVID-19 protocols…
Chairman of the National COVID-19 Management Center (NCMC) Cletus Springer is calling for more transparency in how Government takes decisions that affect people – in particular, changes in local COVID-19 protocols.
In a recent Facebook Post, the NCMC Chairman said he was asked, many times, how the government takes decisions on protocols and was unable to respond.
However, he did try to explain, by first describing “The purpose and structure of the NCMC.”
He noted that “The NCMC is a creature of law” (the Covid Prevention and Control Act of April 2020, amended in September 2021). In explaining its purpose and powers he said that “It serves as an advisory body to Cabinet on Covid-related matters and has oversight on measures required to control and prevent the spread of Covid 19.”
He went on, “These functions make clear that the NCMC can decide only the recommendations it makes to Cabinet, but Cabinet makes the final decision.”
The NCMC consists of representatives from public sector agencies (Tourism, Health and Finance Ministries, GIS, the Commissioner of Police and NEMO) as well as private sector reps (Hotel and Tourism Association), Civil Society (Medical and Dental Association, Trade Union Federation and the National Youth Council) and Medical Professionals.
Explaining how the NCMC interacts with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers, Springer referred to “a recent meeting with PM Pierre at which the CMO and I were present.”
According to the chair, “they” (the Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister) argued that the 2021 Festive Season offered restaurants the first opportunity to recover some of the significant losses they have incurred over the past two years.
“Restaurant staff, who had been suffering for just as long, suffered from the reduced confinement time which hurt their earnings potential, including tips,’ Springer said.
He added that “though not privy to discussions in Cabinet,” his take was that its decision to extend the confinement time for the recent Festive Season was driven partly by “compassion” for the restaurant sector.
Further, he explained, “With the surge in cases after Christmas, the NCMC recommended that the confinement period for New Year’s Eve be pulled back.”
The chair said, “Cabinet was supportive of this recommendation, but felt that such a late adjustment would not be well received by the general public.”
In the end, he said, “Cabinet decided to keep the confinement time at 1:00pm, but with prohibitions on mass crowd social events.”
He then said, “This scenario speaks to my earlier point that decisions on Covid-19 protocols involve more than the science of epidemiology.”
“The elephant in the room is the public’s reaction,” he added, asking further: “Would a populace yearning for freedom comply with an earlier or later confinement time?
“And would the Police be able to enforce compliance?”
The chairman continued, “As I reflect on the sudden, seemingly contradictory decisions being taken by the US and UK governments, I’m reminded that these are not the best of times, even for evidence-based decision making.”
He then explained why he felt governments, including Saint Lucia’s, should be more “transparent” and “up front” with people on Covid-19 decision-making.
According to Springer, “I believe that at the very least, what is required is that Governments be up-front with their people and share the reasons for their decisions, the assumptions that drive them, the likely risks involved in unintended outcomes and how they will be addressed.”
“In other words,” he said, “FULL transparency is the best policy!”