An opposition lawmaker says Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves “is seriously underestimating the situation” as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock says that the government is, therefore, putting citizens’ lives at risk.
Leacock made the claim on radio, on Friday, saying he had done so based on public health and medical advice.
He said that his information is that as many as 50,000 Vincentians could be affected by deadly virus, 2,000 of which “will” lose their lives.
Gonsalves has said that general elections will be held by year end, ahead of the March 2021 constitutional deadline.
However, Leacock said he could not contemplate that happening, given the view that there should be a ban on mass gatherings.
“It is clear that the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is seriously underestimating the situation at hand and is putting the lives of many Vincentians at risk over the days, weeks and months ahead.
Leacock, a vice-president of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), speaking on the party’s New Times programme on NICE Radio, said:
“And the level of preparation and aggression in that preparation that we are proceeding with doesn’t compare, at all, with what’s taking place in the international community and, I may dare say, in some regional jurisdictions as well.”
The lawmaker, who is into his second term as Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, said he had been given “a public health brief, a medical brief by the most senior and authoritative medical source that we can come by in St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
He did not identify that source, but said he had cross-referenced the information “outside of St. Vincent and the Grenadines even to the point of asking whether I should make the statement that I am going to make”.
Leacock said he had not been “as precise as I should have been” in his interpretation of the word “pandemic”.
He said that, like many people, he had interpreted it to mean that “this disease will be all over the world; none shall escape.
“I think what I didn’t include in my understanding is that it also means that millions will die…
“The forecast that has been presented to me with respect to St. Vincent as a country is that in our population of 100,000 — we say is 110[,000] — we could reasonably expect a low of 30,000 and perhaps a high 50,000 of all people will be affected by this pandemic.
“That’s nearly half of St. Vincent and the Grenadines [that] are going to be impacted one way and/or the other by the pandemic.”
The opposition member added:
“The projections, also, and because of the responsible nature of what is being provided and the source, not less than 2,000 Vincentians will lose their lives in this exercise, in this pandemic.”
Leacock said sources in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and in SVG had told him “that we need to bring an end, immediately, to all of the public gatherings…
“And it is most unlikely in the circumstances that we will even be able to contemplate a general election in this year because of the nature of mass gatherings.”
The NDP, which had been holding a series of village meetings across the country, suspended the events after SVG confirmed its sole case of COVID-19 on March 11.
Leacock said his comments were “not scaremongering”.
“We have to err on the side of caution and safety and wellbeing of our people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
He noted that the United States was closing its borders, adding that he understood the “flexibilities” of SVG have to have a “mechanism to let things in and let things out…
“… but it clearly has to be within parameters and good judgment,” Leacock said.
“We cannot send the signal of open sesame that we are ‘Hairoun. Land of the Blessed’ and nothing will become of us. This is gravely and deadly serious and there is historical evidence of what is taking place here where millions upon millions of people have lost their lives before.”
“So, every facet of Vincentian life is already being impacted and will be impacted in a way that the historians, perhaps, will not want to write about. It’s frightening and I’m not apologising. We must start in our homes now, every Vincentian; do everything within our powers to cleanse, disinfect and sanitise our surroundings… the washing of hands with soap, keeping our distances, keeping away from church services, from funerals — from meetings of any and every kind. We cannot take it lightly.”
Leacock said there was already “an acute shortage of personal protective equipment, which more than likely, we will not resolve.
“My information is that even where you have situation where people have to go and be ventilated … it is more than likely that even as much as 70% of those people will lose their lives.
“The margin of survival will be very small, much more so to those who don’t even (indiscernible) stage where you consider as virtually certain death.
“I am prepared to stand on record as having obeyed the medical instruction and the public health warnings.”
Leacock said that in light of the “gravity” of his statement, “the people in the public health services of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in the medical community, must be called out, because they owe a duty of care to all Vincentians to let the science reign and let political expediency take a distant backseat at this time so that we can go to work to protect the lives, the limb of Vincentians now and generations unborn.
“This is no time for chest thumping, politicking, one man up and who is good and who is bad and who is brave and who is better or best at risk-taking.”
Speaking on a “tangential” matter, Leacock said he had been invited by the government to a meeting at 10 p.m. Friday to discuss the design of a new House of Assembly building for which EC$10 million had been obtained from Taiwan.
“We are calling a meeting to discuss the design of a parliament building for which we may not live long enough to occupy. Before we meet as a group of parliamentarians, collectively, in the best interest of what’s good for St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the letter and law of [calypsonians] Ipa, ‘Put country before party, dispense with NDP, ULP (Unity Labour Party) and say we are speaking with unions, with one voice going forward at this time, but we’re looking down the road — political office and accommodation. How sad! It’s an indictment on the divisiveness.”
Leacock said that Vincentian physician Dr. Douglas Slater, who is at the CARICOM Secretariat, is a public health administrator who has significant years of experience and a former minister of health.
He mentioned also the chief medical officer, public officers, Medical Association, and the Bar Association as stakeholders who “must now be in the vanguard and let their voices be heard, and not speaking, after the fact, of those who have not demonstrated that well holding realms of a political office, they can put people and country before self and party.
“We are into perilous times, serious times. Everybody must take maximum care at this time to protect themselves and their family,” Leacock said.
Leacock had prefaced his comments by saying he was speaking having had a conversation with opposition leader Dr. Friday.
“And I’m leaving room for him to do this in even greater detail than I would and in an even more profound way than I would but I gave a solemn undertaking to the source of the information that I would follow through with what I’m going to say now as a public policy,” Leacock said.
“And I urge the people of Central Kingstown and all of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to weigh in heavily on what I say now as the representative for Central Kingstown and a member of the Parliament of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”