Lack of Trust in Health Authorities

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The Minister of Health claimed in a recent interview that the media is “too suspicious”, and that the Saint Lucian public (including the media) should trust the authorities. There is an old adage: “Trust is earned not given.” Has the Saint Lucia government authorities provided sufficient reasons for the public to trust their health data and COVID-19 information? Let us explore some of the numerous examples of incompetency that has resulted in government mistrust.

Hypocrisy in COVID-19 Protocol Enforcement

The Prime Minister stated that multiple hotels violated the 75% occupancy limit with a number of unnamed hotels having up to 100% occupancy. The Minister of Tourism then stated that these hotels were “punished harshly” but refused to describe the punishment and instead left it as an “exercise to the reader”. “We have certainly taken actions against everyone who have breached the protocol. We’re not in the business of endangering the brand or the good name of any hotel, but I can tell you, think of the worst thing that could happen to a hotel, we have done it,” exclaimed Tourism Minister. It is absurd that the Minister of Tourism is unable to describe the repercussions to the hotels for failing to follow the prescribed protocols. Hotel owners who actually followed the protocols are perhaps disappointed that they did not attempt to gain additional revenue as there would have been no or little repercussions.

In stark contrast, the authorities are enforcing the mask mandate for locals in full view of the media’s cameras. The police commissioner has also promised “hardcore enforcement” of all COVID-19 protocols. Is this enforcement only applicable to the Saint Lucian locals while we continue to give hotels just a slap on their wrist? Authorities are so cautious to not divulge details regarding hotel punishment after obvious protocol breaches.

Blaming The Public

The Minister of Health stated the following: “According to her, individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 simply let their guard down. Anybody who has had it dropped the ball. They either went to visit a family or friend”, she declared. If I have it tomorrow is because I dropped my guard.” Surely, the Minister is aware that hotel workers are contracting COVID-19 while serving the Trump-supporting tourists at vacation spots. Multiple video proof of tourists whom refuse to wear masks and follow the COVID-19 protocols when on island is being circulated around the island. “During the period November 23, 2020 to January 13, 2021 a total of 60 cases were documented including the COVID-19 related death of a 52 year old UK national.”

Vaccine Misinformation

The Minister of Health claimed that she did not know why Barbados, and Dominica received doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine due to a separate agreement with India. “On Tuesday, Barbados received 100, 000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Government and people of India. Dominica also received 70,000 doses of the vaccine that was transported to Roseau by the Regional Security System.” This is separate from the vaccines from the COVAX arrangement that Saint Lucia and other islands are slated to receive in the next few weeks. It appears that the Government of Saint Lucia did not pursue any similar agreements to obtain additional vaccines for the people of Saint Lucia. Instead, we have a Minster of Health who claims that these vaccines are “unapproved” even if they are the exact vaccines (Oxford-AstraZeneca) that Saint Lucia will receive via COVAX facility.

Thankfully the caring governments of Barbados and Dominica graciously donated some vaccines to Saint Lucia. “On Wednesday February 10, 2021, Saint Lucia received 1000 doses of the vaccine from the Government of Barbados. On Thursday February 11, 2021, a further 2000 doses was received from the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica.” Interestingly, he Minister of Health was present to receive the donated Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines she referred to as “unapproved” a day earlier.

Inaccurate Numbers on the COVID-19 Dashboard

On February 8th 2021, the Ministry had the following dashboard with the numbers listed as follows:

· Number of cases in Isolation: 1049

· Number of COVID-19 Tests performed: 26,855

Three days later, on February 11th, the COVID-19 dashboard still showed the following:

· Number of cases in Isolation: 1049

· Number of COVID-19 Tests performed: 26,855

Note the following numbers were changed

· Number of Active cases: From 1091 to 712

· Number of Confirmed Cases: From 2027 to 2137

· Number of COVID-19 Deaths: From 19 to 22

Insufficient Information in Recent Press Releases

The press releases provided by the Ministry of Health appear to have less and less information with significant gaps in data. This makes it extremely difficult to understand the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in Saint Lucia and begs the question of what is the government trying to hide?

The Wednesday February 10th update stated “On Tuesday, Feb. 9, the Ministry of Health received confirmation from the Ezra Long Laboratory of 110 new cases of COVID-19. This is from a total of 247 samples processed on Sunday February 7, 2021 for a range of days.” What exactly does a “range of days” mean? How many days are we referring too? Our PM stated the following on January 14th : “We are prepared and have been prepared for a very long time to implement PCR testing for persons to travel back to Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.” Is Saint Lucia able to provide Trump-supporting tourists with their test results within 3 days but unable to provide sick Saint Lucians with their COVID-19 test results for over a week?

In terms of the chronology, ordering of the 3 most recent deaths highlighted in the latest press release had the following information: Death #22 occurred on February 7th while Death #20 occurred on February 9th. See excerpt below:

· Death #20 … passed away on February 9, 2021.

· Death #21 … passed away on February 8, 2021.

· Death #22 … passed away on February 7, 2021.

Number of Active Cases Reduced

During the nation update on Thursday February 11th the Health Authorities title headlines was the following: “THE NUMBER OF ACTIVE CASES HAS BEEN REDUCED.” This claim is rather bewildering since before the update, the number of active cases were listed as 712 on the dashboard and after the update it was listed as 973. How exactly is an increase from 712 to 973 considered a reduction in active cases?

Increasing Positivity Rate

The update on February 11th also continued to be extremely worrying with a positivity rate of 45%. Monday February 8, 2021: a total of 287 tests were conducted with 117 positive samples

· Tuesday February 9, 2021: a total of 330 tests were conducted with 161 positive samples

A high COVID-19 positivity rate is of major concern to all Saint Lucians. “The percent-positive rate is one of the better metrics because it helps us understand not only the case count but also whether there’s enough testing,” said Gypsyamber D’Souza, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. If you have a high positivity rate, it usually means one of two things, D’Souza explained, and neither of them is good. Either your community has a very high prevalence of COVID-19, so the odds are greater that someone coming in for a test has the disease, or your community is not testing nearly enough, so only people with severe infections are coming in for tests while those who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms aren’t being diagnosed.”

The WHO considered 5% positivity rate as a benchmark for opening countries, and currently Saint Lucia is 9 times over that number. This is an alarming sign that the government has completely lost control of the COVID-19 pandemic in Saint Lucia.

Saint Lucia vs COVID-19 Hotspots

Analysis from ourworldindata allow users to which track COVID-19 cases counts show the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in Saint Lucia per million people. While COVID-19 hotspots such as the United States and the United Kingdom (Saint Lucia’s tourism source markets) have registered decreases over the past few weeks, Saint Lucia has registered significant increases and now surpasses both the US and the UK COVID-19 cases per million people.

Why should the Saint Lucian public trust the authorities when they have continually misled the public and created an environment of mistrust?

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