Just when we thought greater clarity had replaced uncertainty in the actions of some of our public figures, we have been proven wrong. Following Minister of Tourism Lisa Cummins’ ‘apology’ last week for breaching the seven-day COVID-19 quarantine protocol, perhaps acting chief medical officer Dr Kenneth George and Minister of Sports Dwight Sutherland should now offer some insight into their recent actions for the benefit of those who remain in disbelief.
As of earlier today, there were 20, 672, 067 reported cases of COVID-19 infections across the globe with 749 015 deaths reported. The figures keep increasing with every sentence written, every test taken, every lapse made and with every stupid excuse given. Barbados’ count stands at 143 confirmed cases with seven deaths. For a population short of 300 000, though the numbers might appear small, they are still uncomfortable figures. This pandemic is to be taken seriously. Though millions are recovering there is no blueprint to determine who will. There is none in place to determine the level or expanse of likely spread. It is for these reasons that across the globe governments and medical officials have instituted strict protocols to mitigate the spread of the virus. In word and deed, we ought to be demonstrating the seriousness of this situation.
At the beginning of this month Dr George told the media that many of the Ghanaian nurses came to Barbados on July 30 without proof of negative COVID-19 tests. “Unfortunately, many of the Ghanaians did not come with a test as was required by Barbadian authorities. However, we corrected this immediately and we were able to identify those individuals…” The question must be asked that if some of the nurses arrived without documentation showing they were COVID-19 negative, why did Government invite media and other parties to the Grantley Adams International Airport for a meet and greet that had the potential to put the health of Barbadian families at risk? But this comedy that is not a laughing matter didn’t end there. At another media briefing on Monday, Dr George made the revelation that the Ministry of Health was aware of the medical history of all 95 Ghanaian nurses who arrived in Barbados on July 30. He said the information at the time was okay. “We got good information on their medical history and what was given was at the time okay to the Ministry of Health,” Dr George said. But it could not be okay if, by Dr George’s admission, some of the nurses turned up in Barbados without written proof of their status. Unbelievable!
The COVID-19 comedy continued. Dr George issued Miss Cummins with medical clearance to enter the Senate on the same day Prime Minister Mia Mottley revealed that he said she, along with Health Minister Jeffrey Bostic should remain in quarantine for another day or two. To date Dr George has not denied nor disputed what Miss Mottley said on national television. Instead, he has taken the route of offering excuses and empty rhetoric to the Barbadian public about his decision. He noted he used the scientific approach with respect to issuing Miss Cummins’ medical certificate. What scientific approach does one utilize to contradict oneself and authorize the breach of a protocol that more than likely you are one of the authors? “. . . We use a steady hand when we make decisions in this ministry and we have agreed that the risk to start with was extremely low and we used the science at the time and I stand by my decision to issue the letter. . .” This translates into Dr George making two different decisions about one situation even as he spoke about “steady hand” and “making sure the interest of the public was paramount”. No, Dr George, you ought to join Senator Cummins in offering an apology to the nation for these contradictions. Ghana might be considered a low-risk location by our medical experts but 41 404 cases and 215 deaths as of today still merit extreme caution
During the week, former Chelsea and England footballer Eniola Aluko breached Barbados’ quarantine regulations when without receiving her COVID-19 test results, she caught a public service vehicle – not a taxi – and went her merry way. She subsequently faced the court for her ignorance and was reprimanded and discharged. Those Barbadians still trying to raise between $5 000 to $8 000 to pay the court for equal acts of COVID-19 folly must be cursing their bad luck – or nationality. Aluko’s excuse for her actions was a “misunderstanding”. Our recollections are that there were plenty of excuses also offered by those Barbadians heavily fined earlier in the year for their breaches of protocol.
But Aluko’s pièce de résistance was when Mr Sutherland invited her to partake in a press conference after her judicial slap-on-the-wrist, to discuss plans for the possible recruitment of Barbadian females to the Aston Villa club where she is sports director. Whether this comes to fruition or not, or whether some Barbadians view her promises similar to Minister Cummins’ apology, is not the main issue. The optics of the ministerial meet were not good and Government is usually excellent on this score. This was a discussion between Miss Aluko and Mr Sutherland that was best had behind closed doors away from the glare of the media. The press conference and promises pale into insignificance compared to the misstep of Miss Aluko and the harm her earlier actions could have potentially had. She was the villain in the piece, not the saviour, as her tweet that this is her last visit suggests.