(Excerpts of Dr. Friday’s Press Conference)
We are grateful that we have lived to see the New Year, 2021. Let us pray that there are better things in store for us this year. There were many moments in 2020 where we faced unprecedented challenges, most notably the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, I believe that as a people we have become more grounded in what matters most in life; we are more determined and resilient than ever in the face of the challenges that will surely come our way this year.
In fact, they have already started. We begin the New Year with a great sense of the weight of the world upon us as we contend with two potential disasters: an erupting La Soufriere volcano and escalating local transmission of Covid-19.
Our country, already beleaguered with a dramatic fall off in our tourism and agriculture sectors, must now brace itself for even harder times under the Unity Labour Party government (ULP): a Party that has run out of ideas and who can only offer the same for 2021 as they have done for nearly 20 years.
I look forward to the things we would do together to make life better. And we continue to plan and work to have a majority government of the NDP in place to breathe new life into our stagnant economy, create jobs, promote prosperity, to plant the seeds of recovery from the COVID-19 economic crash, to end victimization and foster free expression for all our people. I stand by that solemn commitment to you.
The writer, James Baldwin, has reminded us that: “No one holds power forever.” We also know it when we say: “Every rope has an end”. And the end of ULP government will come, but we must continue to pray and work for that brighter day. I remain resolute in my commitment to the people of SVG. I will call upon you to continue the work we have started, to bring an end to a tired and corrupt ULP government and bring about the change you desire.
In order to make this happen, we must be steadfast in our commitments to improve the lives of all Vincentians. This includes a resolve to promote the principles of good governance, equal treatment, and opportunity for all Vincentians, regardless of political party, race, or creed. We will demand that these principles are followed in our public affairs for the benefit of all our people. As I have said repeatedly, the NDP is a party for all Vincentians—a vehicle for change and there is a place in it for everyone.
While we face the many challenges before us, let us remain hopeful and keep your faith in Almighty God. We shall prevail and we will help each other through the hard times. When circumstances permit, you will see me in your communities your homes and your events. I particularly look forward to meeting more amazing young people to hear from them how we can make this country better. I want to hear your ideas, fresh and new ideas that spring from the creativity of our young people and bring them together with the wisdom of our elders to transform the way we do things and build a prosperous, sustainable economy and society.
Before we can do this, we must manage and ultimately overcome the scourge of COVID-19 scourge.
The Escalating COVID-19 Crisis
The crisis is the worst it has been in SVG. Over the past two weeks the situation has deteriorated rapidly. SVG recorded it first case on 11th March, 2020 and increased moderately until a week or so ago.
Recent upsurge in new cases: Wednesday 6th January, 28 new cases; Thursday 7th January, 55 new cases; Sunday 10th January, 24 new cases; Monday 11th January, 4 new cases; Tuesday 12th January, 31 new cases. A total of 284 cases in SVG; 106 recovered and 178 remain active. There is more to come; perhaps many more.
Most concerning is that vast majority of cases are result of local spread. Tuesday, for example, all 31 cases had no recent travel history. This means they got infected through local transmission. The government officials do not want to use the term community spread. One hundred and fifty five (155) local transmission cases are under investigation, according to NEMO. That a lot of cases to investigate at the same time. Six (6) persons are hospitalized, two (2) in serious condition. This is new for us. Let us pray it does not become fatal. Do we have the capacity to treat people effectively? Our health care system is not equipped to deal with an outbreak of COVID illnesses. Do we have ventilators (how many) and staff to operate them?
Further, many Government officials have tested positive: Commissioner of Police; Dep. Commissioner of Police; five other police officers; Treasury Dept officials; a Minister of government. Several persons who were doing contract tracing have apparently also tested positive. So, who is doing the tracing? How are they coping? Testing backlog is also growing, 900 tests still waiting results. What will the results be? This is frightening for most people.
What is the current positivity rate from recent tests? The system is stretched to the limit, if not overwhelmed. How are they managing to isolate 178 active cases? How are they managing contact tracing for so many new cases that grow more every day? We need answers! People are scared and confused. And the government appears to be paralyzed, unable to act decisively and effectively.
On the one hand, the Prime Minister and others in the government were giving the impression that they had this thing licked, beaten; that they had managed so well that the economic fallout was not as bad as elsewhere in the region. They spoke as though we were past the worst. But the situation is now worse than ever.