Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says his government should have banned international flights during the Christmas season and should not have allowed the Nine Mornings festival, in an effort to prevent an escalation of the COVID-19 cases.
Over the holiday season, St. Vincent and the Grenadines continued to allow flights from COVID-19 hotspots, such as the United States and thousands of persons participated in Nine Mornings, a unique Vincentian festival.
And, since Dec. 28, hundreds of Vincentians with no recent travel history have tested positive or COVID-19, with the number now standing at 597 of the 738 cases recorded in the country.
“Of course, hindsight is always 2020 vision. Over the holidays, you should have banned the airlines, you should have [not] allowed any Nine Mornings to take place,” Gonsalves said on NBC Radio on Wednesday.
“But we had just had elections where both political parties had thousands upon thousands of people at rallies,” he noted, speaking of the campaign for the Nov. 5 general elections.
“So the persons who would have been doing the Nine Mornings would have said you could have 15,000 persons at one rally but now you don’t want to have 400 or 500 at a Nine Morning event, or 200 or 100? And people came home with their families and we [saw] some of these gatherings,” the prime minister reasoned.
“You take, for instance, we banned Luke Boyea and Skinny Fabulous from having their big events, and other people, too. But that did not stop people using the Facebook for 20, 30, 40, people to say let’s gather by Tom Browne house and Tom Browne organised a party and many of those parties were organised across this country,” Gonsalves said.
iWitness News understands that the cluster of cases in the Police Force emerged from a house party that several officers attended.
“We have, therefore, to have everybody buy into what we are doing. There are a lot of people involved in a lot of sophistry and petty fogging discussion. A lot of it is laced with political nonsense. Even take things which I have said before out of context and debating and arguing.”
Gonsalves was speaking two days after he announced two holidays, this weekend, which he pitched as an opportunity for Vincentians to rejuvenate in light of the stresses brought on by the pandemic and the on-going effusive eruption of the La Soufriere volcano.
However, many Vincentians immediately concluded that the holidays were a veritable lockdown, aimed at restricting the movement of persons.
The prime minister encouraged residents not to go to beaches and have picnics and other celebratory events that generally take place on holidays in the country.
And, while no specific laws had been passed restricting movement or banning certain types of activities over the holiday weekend, the police issued a statement on Thursday saying they would be taking steps to enforce the COVID-19 protocols, which are largely Ministry of Health recommendations.
In his comments, Gonsalves noted that up to Dec. 27, the country had just about 110 cases of COVID-19, most of which were imported or import-related.
“There was a spiral thereafter,” he said, adding that the reasons for this “are straightforward.
The prime minister said health authorities had suggested to him credible reasons for the spike in cases.
“The first one is the recurrent breach of the quarantine by several people — lot’s of people. Secondly, over the festive season, you had a lot more people coming in than before — people come to see their families and so on. Thirdly, there were a number of social gatherings, including family gatherings of various sizes, and, fourthly, there has been until recently, a general non-adherence to the COVID protocols put forward by the Health Service Sub-Committee of NEMO. Taken together, we have this spiral,” Gonsalves.
“And they can’t be taken single. They have to be taken together,” he further stated.
“In short, we have to analyse properly and see what is the best thing which we can do. We have been doing it quite well and then those four factors which I just mentioned in a composite way allowed it to get out of hand,” the prime minister said.