“I would be like an ostrich with my head in the sand if I did not speak a little bit about this topic that is on everybody’s lips right now…. The one thing that I know is that I am not an expert in health and so when it comes to the question of the coronavirus and VincyMas, we have taken the decision that we would be guided by the health professionals, we would be guided by national policy and as such we are continuing to prepare for VincyMas as though it will happen when it is scheduled to happen, until advised otherwise.”
So said Ricardo Adams, Chairman of the Carnival Development Committee, as he announced the launch of the: new VincyMas logo, 2020 VincyMas poster and upgraded CDC website – www.carnivalsvg.com at the picturesque Sunset Shores grounds. The media launch came two days before SVG recorded its first COVID-19 case on March 11.
Speaking exclusively with ANN on Saturday, Adams confirmed that plans are still progressing for what would be the 4th VincyMas production under his stewardship. “We’ve not received any official word cancelling events or mass gatherings on the local level, so we’re still going ahead with plans,” he said.
Health Ministry officials have said that “social distancing and mass gathering limitations will be considered.” To date, no such measures have been announced. At the March 11 media briefing, CMO Simone Keizer-Beache reassured the public, “this is something we’re also looking at. This is something we have been contemplating.
“We have gathered the necessary research in terms of what is the likelihood, what should be the triggers. As it is now we’re looking at our numbers, we’re looking at gatherings coming up. So we have an imported case, meaning that this person did not contract their disease in St. Vincent, they contracted their disease in the United Kingdom, however we will continue to monitor, to test as necessary.
“So like we said last night in the other gathering, if we move from imported case to local transmission which means this imported case has passed this disease on to somebody locally, that’s local transmission. And then if we move to community spread where you have other persons in the community showing up sick without any obvious index case – initial case, those are the three different situations. So now we are at the first stage. We are at the stage of an imported case. And we are going to look at the risks.
“How many persons are we thinking about when we talk about mass gatherings? Are we talking about an entire Victoria Park of persons or are we thinking about going to church? So we need to be aware of the differences and at this point, I would not recommend saying that there are no mass gatherings. However we all need to be very aware of what we are doing.”
The CMO further advised that persons remember to cough in tissues, then immediately discard the used tissues and wash hands or more preferably stay out of public circulation if sick. “That way we would reduce the spread of whatever you have – whether it’s H1N1 which we have circulating anyway, normally or influenza B.”
Meanwhile the VincyMas producers are better poised to take advantage of technological advances as a cornerstone of their redefined promotional strategy. A mobile application is set to be launched soon, Adams told media audiences last Monday as he unveiled the new and improved www.carnivalsvg.com website which is linked by a QR code that is published on the 2020 poster.
The site is intended to be a one stop information source to the VincyMas consumer as they set out to plan their 2020 experience.
The “VincyMas website, we recognize, needed a little more vibrancy, a little more energy,” so Omar Wyllie was contracted to redesign the Carnival Development Committee’s primary portal on the world, wide web.
Some of the innovative features include: competition results from as early as 1951 up to 2019, the ability to conduct polls; a digital countdown clock that marks the real time left until VincyMas 2020 comes around; the media page which carries all CDC/VincyMas related releases and articles; “a really vibrant color scheme” that “really pops at you now;” dedicated space to promote mas bands who supply photos etc., to be posted. Information regarding mas bands’ 2020 productions and individual bands’ contact details are also published; updated information on the CDC Board, subcommittees and staff as well as tabs for hotels, CDC events and promoters’ events.
“That one, we hope, would be a revenue generating exercise where promoters can promote their events and we either do it through direct revenue transfer or reciprocal advertising,” Adams said.
Okana Graham must be noted for his brand development contribution as the graphic designer who produced the first ever Vincy Mas logo.
“The design code name of the logo is the Burning Diamond V. The main idea behind the logo was to represent the hottest carnival in the Caribbean and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in a single object. Paying homage to our national flag, the V is achieved by starting with one of our flag’s diamonds and the flame of carnival burns hot to carve out the final shape,” Chairman Adams extolled.
The VincyMas boss reminded media audiences that although much else has not changed, programmatically for the 2020 calendar, “of course the big buzz is that Miss SVG is no longer part of the VincyMas carnival programme and has been moved to Independence where Miss SVG will now be Miss Saint Vincent and the Grenadines selected in a period of heightened national pride and focus on our national culture.”
In recent times, it is customary to kick start the country’s largest festival on the first Saturday of May. This year, VincyMas is set to launch on May 2 with, as usual, the dual roadshows spanning the Windward and Leeward Coasts of mainland St. Vincent with whistle stops along the way. Radio personalities, disc jockeys and soca artistes would provide entertainment en route to carnival city Victoria Park, where the official launch ceremony would be held.
The CDC’s newly minted Marketing and Development Officer, Esworth ‘Ezzie’ Roberts, told us on Sunday, “the CDC has a mandate to organize and execute carnival so we are doing what we are supposed to do in the normal fashion or scheme of things. We have been asked the question already whether or not we would be postponing carnival but that is not something that the CDC Board itself decides.
That decision has to be made by higher authorities and then the CDC would be informed accordingly. In the meantime until we receive such information we would be going ahead with the plans of VincyMas because we don’t want a situation whereby we didn’t plan, we just laid back because we were hoping or thinking that it would be postponed or cancelled and then you hear there’s a solution to the problem, you get the all clear and then we get caught with our pants down so to speak.
“So we are planning and if the authorities say it has to be postponed then we will do that. But in the meantime we’re going ahead with all that we have planned; the official launch on May 2 and also the rest of the VincyMas calendar as we have outlined.”
Roberts promised “a full night of activities” for patrons when the city based parade from the cruise ship terminal in Kingstown along with the caravans starting at Georgetown and Barrouallie get to Victoria Park. “It would include pan, mas, calypso and soca artistes taking part,” he elaborated.
As for COVID-19 preparations, “Those matters as relates to health we’ll leave up to the health officials. The CDC, we’re not really equipped in any way to deal with COVID-19 hence we have to wait on the government who would be guided by the expertise of the health department, the health ministry and so on.
“So once the Health Ministry informs the government, the government informs us of the decision, we would act accordingly.
The Marketing and Development officer was further asked to clarify his response in light of one local promoter’s recent pledge to mitigate against community transmission by installing hand sanitization stations at points around the venue of his annual event.
“As it is right now, we’re awaiting word from the authorities. If it gets down to the situation whereby we’re going through with VincyMas then things like those would be considered.
The CDC would have a particular meeting to deal with what all can be done; like providing hand sanitizers or whatever sanitization methods that we’d have to implement. That would come later on but as it is right now we’re just going ahead with plans and when it comes to that part of it we’d make the announcements.”