South Central Windward Member of Parliament hopeful Senator Israel Bruce found his plans upstaged by Health Ministry officials on Friday May 1, 2020. In a series of Facebook live addresses the New Democratic Party’s candidate for that constituency announced several initiatives which he hopes to roll out to the advantage of his prospective constituents in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amongst those ideas are outreach programmes to ensure that students across the constituency “are benefitting from the necessary programmes that are to be had to ensure that they continue to access their education using the online platforms whilst the country continue to grapple with a determination as to when to reopen our school system;” as well as plans to assist displaced citizens with accessing the appropriate resources being made available as part of the Dr. Gonsalves-led government’s post COVID-19 socio-economic recovery plan.
But it was his plan to mount an educational campaign targeting the Greiggs community that was outpaced by Health Ministry officials last Friday. He told some 1700 plus viewers on April 30, “as a consequence of the increasing numbers of COVID-19 [patients] in the Greiggs community, I wish to advise members of that community and surrounding communities that effective tomorrow [May 1] God’s willing, that a team of us… will visit, in particularly the Greiggs community tomorrow and maybe Saturday God’s willing.
“And during my presence in the community the small team would be distributing pamphlets, leaflets [and] information brochures that provides information on how do you help yourselves and relatives – your loved ones and in particular the senior citizens of Greiggs and surrounding communities in fighting COVID-19…. Of course we would be making use of recorded messages as we enhance the education within the community.”
Asbert News Network reached out to Senator Bruce on May 1 requesting an update on what was to be the day’s activity. We were told, “I did not bother to do anything because the Ministry of Health said they were going to do the very said exercise. They ran ahead of me because I told them what I was going to do.”
A caption attached to a video post on area Parliamentary Representative Saboto Caesar’s Facebook wall thanked “Dr. Jerrol Thompson and the team currently in Greiggs” and captured Dr. Thompson extolling the virtues of garlic, lemon grass, turmeric and ginger as immune boosters that may not cure the virus but could help persons to “kick this thing if it ever comes near you.”
The infectious disease specialist also shared tentative plans to follow up that first public address educational foray into the community with other sessions. “We will be back with a lot more information maybe coming up here, we have to come up here and maybe we have a special session talking to a lot of the elderly persons to tell them how they could better protect themselves too.”
Also appearing on Minister Caesar’s social media platform that day was an exclusive interview published by news784.com. The article chronicled Caesar, who is also the current Minister of Agriculture, as saying, “today, I arranged to have 1,500 face masks delivered in the constituency, with a special emphasis on Greiggs.” He also thanked Dr. Thompson for facilitating consultations “as early as February 2020… in the constituency of South Central Windward with representatives from all communities, to address possible options of risk mitigation, should COVID 19 impact on SVG.”
Senator Bruce took advantage of his week day social media address on Monday to shed some more light on the disruption of his developing plans. He noted that his sense of responsibility led him to reach out to Health Ministry officials so that he could coordinate his community outreach efforts to match whatever was being done nationally. He was also hoping to be able to access audio and printed educational materials to help deliver the COVID-19 mitigation messages.
“Well my friends I was told I would be called back; I was. The telephone call did come back only to say that I was told that there was nothing that they could help me with. They had no printed material; the Ministry had no audio material – nothing at their disposal to assist with the education exercise.
“What I found strange though was on the return call the young lady was now telling me, ‘oh you know, we planning to do something like that also.’ I said, ‘wow, ok. Well the fact that I have made the determination to go into that part of the community it may then not require you to go into that community so you can take your resource of time and manpower elsewhere.’ ”
According to Bruce, he was then invited to peruse the websites of international health organisations such as WHO and PAHO so he could collate the necessary information to share as part of his mission; at about the same time he was being quizzed as per the anticipated start time of his community service.
“I found it rather strange that they wanted to know what time I wanted to go into that part of the constituency,” he told Facebook followers on Monday.
After he would have secured permission from the Commissioner of Police’s office to use amplified sound to disseminate the public health information he was able to amass, and while preparing to get the show on the road Friday morning, he was informed that the Ministry’s team was already in the area.
Interestingly Senator Bruce claims that being upstaged by the Ministry did not faze him, nor was he upset that they preempted him since they were merely doing what they are being paid to do.
“The difficulty I have is this: I heard the audio recording that they were using and it was making reference to Labour Day 2020 which meant that there was a prepared audio to be used for this exercise when I was told that there was none. And then later on that particular Friday I saw a vehicle… with the ULP name on the side plate to tell me it belongs to the ULP and it had on the horns and they were playing the same audio message that the Ministry of Health was playing on that particular morning.
“So the Ministry of Health did not have any audio material that could be disposed to me to assist the people of Greiggs but guess what, on that same evening it was available to the Unity Labour Party and their personnel to go into the same Greiggs to do what I respectfully contacted them to tell them I wanted to do.”
According to the lawyer-cum-politician, he is satisfied that the objective – educating the Greiggs community – was achieved and as such he thanked the Ministry officials and ULP operatives who helped in that regard. He however slammed the purported constituency COVID-19 emergency management plan as referenced by MP Caesar.
“I laughed it to scorn for one simple reason; that you could have gone to sit down to engage in mapping up a management plan 2 months in advance and when the virus did hit the constituency, we couldn’t see the roll out of that plan that was so immaculately conceived. All I’ll say to that is God bless all planning of that particular type.”
Senator Bruce also applauded Minister Caesar’s delivery of the 1500 masks and pledged a further 500.
Because that he did not wish to “engage in information overload in one particular day” Bruce resorted to his Facebook Live to debunk several covid-19 fighting myths; including the misconception that alcohol consumption helps against the sometimes fatal virus.
He also took time to warn against the notion that taking straight shots of the overproof white rum, widely consumed by Vincentians, would not “disinfect your mouth and your throat and it would not give you any kind of protection against COVID-19.”
Neither does alcohol help to boost human immune systems.