By Caribbean News Global contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia – The island is grappling with a surge in COVID-19 cases – 426 reflective of 47.23 percent January 12, and 568 new cases reflective of 47.45 percent diagnosed in the country at 16, 505, January 13; is not the sort of record achievement a comatose health care system and a comatose economy can accommodate simultaneously.
Such scenarios are unwelcoming and unhealthy to which pusillanimity, personal persuasion and/or diplomacy can suffice. Simply, the current health system and the comatose economy requires a reconfiguration of processes and systems, beyond what is ordinary and/or customary acceptable.
Saint Lucia’s infamous COVID-19 statistics have not gone unnoticed by the Saint Lucia Teachers Union (SLTU) president Don Howell, and on the heels of a return to face-to-face classes, said, “we need the ministry of education to review school operations with immediate effect.”
In like manner to the rest of society, there are associated health risks and constraints to workspaces, the school, school buses, public transportation, etc., – and the need for supplementary staff.
Chief medical officer, Dr Sharon Belmar-George, encapsulates it this way: “As we’ve been managing the fifth wave, we note that this indicator has not moved significantly which is good. Although we notice a spike, we are not seeing the increase in hospitalization and death that would coincide with that surge.”
Meanwhile, the ministry of health is struggling to deal with the surge in COVID-19 cases and the ability to test up to 2,000 persons per day, the CMO reportedly says that “extra measures are taken at the various health centers to accommodate for increased testing for COVID-19,” and that “ the increased number of cases allows for a delay in reporting results to the public.”
“To date, a total of 50, 315 individuals have been fully vaccinated. Another 6, 085 are partially vaccinated and 5, 176 have received their booster shot,” said the ministry of health in a press release on January 13.
A social media commentor offered advice to the CMO:
“In late November we were down to single-digit everybody was quiet not a word – not a word – quiet. What happened? Christmas came and everybody came down and this is what they left behind.
“ We need more testing sites. CMO you have the data, you know the hot spots, have testing sites closer to home so persons do not have to take three buses, exposing even more persons to this virus. There is too much movement!”
Meanwhile, Pan American Health Organization Director, Carissa F. Etienne, recently called on countries to ensure health workers have access to protective equipment and additional COVID-19 vaccine doses where available emphasised:
“As cases jump three-fold in some countries, the region’s ability to respond to the current wave depends on the personnel that keep primary health care centers, clinics and hospitals up and running.”
The director warned that “while reports suggest that it [ Omicron variant ] may cause less severe symptoms, “this new wave of infections won’t be “mild” for our health systems, as the Omicron variant is already challenging our health workforce and limiting care for other diseases. In smaller island states, some hospitals were already strained by cases of the Delta variant, and now more hospitals face the prospect of being overwhelmed with cases.”
In observations over the past week, the director noted, that the bulk of new COVID-19 cases have been reported in the US, and cases are increasing in Canada’s eastern provinces.
“In the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic have experienced hikes in new infections, and increases are also being seen in Jamaica, Aruba, Curacao and Martinique. In Central America, Belize and Panama are reporting the highest incidence of COVID and in South America, increases are particularly pronounced in Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, as well as in Argentina and Paraguay, where new cases have increased by 300 percent,” said the PAHO director, in a statement January 13.
In Saint Lucia, with a large section of the population still unvaccinated, chances of limiting the impact of COVID-19 and variants are frightening. A concerted push is needed, using the tools of data, vaccines, masks, social distancing, messaging, and a new advertising drive calling on young people to get vaccinated and boosted now.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday, after a six-week surge, Africa’s fourth pandemic wave, which has been mainly driven by the Omicron variant, is flattening.
The 2022 World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) report, produced by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), cites a cocktail of problems that are slowing down the economy, namely new waves of COVID-19 infections, persistent labour market and lingering supply-chain challenges, and rising inflationary pressures.
The slowdown is expected to carry on into next year. After an encouraging expansion of 5.5 percent in 2021 driven by strong consumer spending and some uptake in investment, with trade in goods surpassing pre-pandemic levels global output is projected to grow by only 4.0 percent in 2022 and 3.5 percent in 2023.
Hope and prayer without action is useless, knowing that vaccine equity, COVID-19 and the global economy have put the brakes on Saint Lucia’s rapid recovery.
The new government of Saint Lucia has inherited a comatose health system and economy, in need of reconfiguration with the urgency of now, accompanied by a revised and agile social/economic plan.
No progress will be made if the thinking and planning is underpinned on the same old and tired models, and the same tired minds and worn-out personality. Moreover, if COVID-19 and public health are not under control, every dollar made (tourism, trade and agriculture, financial service) will result in a net-zero formula, syphoned in a comatose health care system and the public service.
Saint Lucia cannot continue to limp along with a comatose public healthcare system consuming 30 percent of the budget and an equal amount in economic decline. Another 12 months of this and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may be the undesired deliverer, the life-saving midwife.
- Read more: Is St Lucia in the hands of the IMF?
**The interpretation is such that the 2020/2021 estimates of expenditure and revenue – is void of any economic underpinning and is essentially masked. Without the support of the IMF, the government of Saint Lucia is bankrupt.