Not only has Major St. Clair Leacock fingered the Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves led administration for what he calls their lackadaisical COVID-19 response; but the Central Kingstown Member of Parliament is adamant that politicians ought to “take a distant back seat” especially when COVID-19 issues and updates are to be presented to the Vincentian populace.
The incumbent MP was, at the time, explaining statements he made via his New Democratic Party’s radio show to Bing Joseph on Boom’s ‘OMG in the Morning’ on Monday.
Major Leacock said, “When I came on air last Friday Bing, I came because I was stopped in my driving by virtually one of the most senior medical practitioners in this country, by years and by dint of practice; who said he was obliged to give to me, as a public policymaker, information that must be disseminated to the public. And he indicated to me a number of things.”
Amongst the issues highlighted by Leacock’s unnamed source was the, “good reason why the World Health Organization was so slow in taking its time in declaring this coronavirus a pandemic.”
According to MP Leacock this painstaking approach was significant as there are “two things that need to be understood in that message from the World Health Organization – that the thing’s all over the world and that millions would die.”
Major Leacock’s “medical practitioner” presented a statistical model which evidently suggested that “a low of 30 000 Vincentians would be affected, a low, and it could be as high as 50 000; nearly half of Saint Vincent. He used a figure of 100 000 Vincentians,” Leacock explained as an estimated number of potential COVID-19 infections here.
At this point Bing pressed Major Leacock, who is also the NDP’s ‘Shadow Minister’ of Disaster Management, for further clarity as to whether the politician’s source delineated ‘persons being affected’ as opposed to ‘persons who were infected.’
“Well, affected/infected, I’ll leave the semantics to you. I’m not going there. But that’s what he said and it’s his belief 2000 Vincentians would die,” Leacock responded.
One of our nation’s younger and brightest minds currently pursuing a Civil and Disaster Prevention Engineering PhD in Taiwan, “with a wide range of studies in emergency and disaster management,” weighed in on the eventual outcome as presented by the Central Kingstown Member of Parliament.
“The main thing is, while the scenario that Leacock put forward is a possibility, there are a multitude of factors at play for each nation that these statistics must be modeled off of.
“These include: the socioeconomic state of the country, the status of the healthcare system, the geopolitical system (in this communist countries would have more control over their people), the distribution of the population, the number of entry points and the historical control [governments] have had over their entry points (so States which are at war with their neighbors would generally have better border control) and the size of the economy.”
Leacock’s statistical findings, though plausible “are not perfect as the correlations are not easily made.”
The time of the first recorded infection coupled with “the time that the different measures were being put in place” are 2 other factors that ought to be considered when attempting to project numerical values on the local context of the worsening pandemic, the student further advised.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, social commentator Jerry George told his “Early in the Morning’ audience, on Facebook; “a lot of people, for political reasons, want to jump down the throat of Major Leacock by saying he’s going off chart when he said 2000 Vincentians might die.
“I want any of you to tell me, if he says 2000, what guarantee that you have of how many will die, if any. Do you have any?
“And so if I were you, I would prefer to err on the side of saying, ‘boy, if 2000 people might die lemme make sure me live.’ And let’s ensure that Vincentians do something.
“Sometimes we have to shock people into reality. And if that statement by Major Leacock is one to shock us into reality – take it! For what it’s worth instead of trying to dissect from a political perspective because if he’s right, your politics wouldn’t matter. You’d be dead if it comes down your path.”
Efforts made by Asbert News Network to engage Luke Brown, local Health Minister and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache in a discussion as to the merits, or lack thereof, of Major Leacock’s model and any other means of statistically forecasting the likely outcome of a worsening COVID-19 situation here that the Health Ministry might be using, is yet to bear fruit.
Back on Boom’s OMG, Major Leacock asserted the general correctness of the statistics as presented by the unnamed, though highly esteemed, medical doctor.
He supported his perspective with figures he attributed to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo as well as data presented on Brereton Horne’s ‘View from the Outside’ aired on BDS NICE Radio illustrating the United Kingdom’s context.
“I spoke to my brother as well, who is a medical practitioner in Scotland, and he said the figures and facts were also correct. And I spoke to other authorities. I also spoke to a very senior pharmacist and they were all saying that the data I was putting up was on or around correct.”
Major Leacock noted that his statement was truncated by one on air personality, for political mischief, even as another media outlet carried the whole transcript of his original pronouncement.
He further explained, “I went into great detail and cried out for help, Bing that at this time our senior public health people, senior medical people must put the science in front the politics of the nation.
“They are the ones with the integrity and the credibility in the matter. And we politicians must take a distant backseat and allow the science and the medical [professionals] to speak to the issues.
“That’s the difficulty in Saint Vincent; you are hearing what the Surgeon General is saying, Bing you quoted him, you’re hearing all over the world what the senior, top people are saying in the United States but in St. Vincent it’s a difficult thing for the people who should speak to speak. And this is always our problem, always, always, always our problem.
“You can’t get an accountant, an engineer or a financial person to speak on any matter. One single person speaks on any and every issue in St. Vincent and that becomes the gospel and the rest of us cast aside.”
As for statements made that describe the senior Vice President of his New Democratic Party as an “alarmist,” Leacock said, “I have nothing to gain from being alarmist. I believe I am a sensible politician and I wouldn’t want to do anything that would be injurious to my opportunities at the polls, but this is not for me at the polls at the moment.
“This is what is best for Vincentians…. I have a Saint Vincent first interest and that’s what I’ve spoken to.”
The 69 years old MP admitted to having not shared the information with the health authorities here, his stance – “they must have information of this kind. It’s public knowledge. Anybody that is looking at the modeling that is happening all over the world would know that.
“In fact I called out by name a friend of mine who went to study at the same time like myself, our Dr. Douglas Slater who is a senior person at the OECS Secretariat with the responsibility for matters of this nature. Why are we not hearing from them Bing?
“That’s always St. Vincent’s problem. When the country is in a crisis one person speaks.
“Jerry George made the important point today – up ‘til now our Prime Minister has not addressed this matter as a Prime Minister; comingling it with matters at the obelisk, comingling it within a press conference, always politicking – the Opposition would do this, the Opposition would do that.
“This is not a time for NDP or ULP! This is a time for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We must take a backseat; we must take a back seat and put the science and medicine first.
“If I am wrong I am prepared to come out and say that I’ve erred. I could have taken a decision to say, ‘yo see that, you go and tell the people so yourself. I ain’t touching that.’ ”
As the Commandant of the local Cadet Forces at the time of the 1979 volcanic eruptions, Major Leacock claims to have been the officer in charge of the multi-islands evacuation strategy here.
To better ascertain the timeline that was factored into the statistical model that prompted MP Leacock’s pronouncement, Asbert News Network reached out to the Major, with his appreciation for “being on the frontline of decision making and disaster” management.
We asked, “would we see an acceleration of those multiple cases in a matter of weeks, months or days?” To which the Opposition MP responded, “I asked the same question myself but he (medical practitioner) did not say.
“Interestingly I have in my hand a document from another senior Doctor corroborating the same facts.”