Dead on Ar­rival

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Bos­ton: Five pas­sen­gers ex­pe­ri­enc­ing flu-like symp­toms aboard an Emi­rates flight 237 orig­i­nat­ing in Dubai were es­corted off the plane at about 2:45 Mon­day af­ter­noon by a team in full haz­mat suits at Lo­gan In­ter­na­tional Air­port, and other pas­sen­gers were kept on board for nearly three hours while of­fi­cials as­sessed the sit­u­a­tion. The five ail­ing pas­sen­gers were es­corted to two area hos­pi­tals to eval­u­ate their con­di­tions. As Mon­day’s events un­folded at the air­port, the mass re­sponse of emer­gency crews, com­pris­ing Mass­port Fire Res­cue, the State Po­lice, Bos­ton EMS, Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, the Bos­ton Pub­lic Health Com­mis­sion, and the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion, did not dis­rupt in­com­ing or out­go­ing flights at Bos­ton’s Lo­gan Air­port.

The world cham­pion boxer, Mike Tyson, once said, “When you’re punched in the face is not the time to dis­cuss your plans”, which is why Saint Lu­cians should have applauded the pro­nounce­ments of their Min­istry of Health and their Prime Min­is­ter con­cern­ing Saint Lu­cia’s preparedness in the face of the threat posed by the Ebola Virus that presently threat­ens civ­i­liza­tion as we know it.

I say “should have”, but you know, Dear Reader, that I am not be­ing sin­cere. But be­fore I go on, just in case I am bark­ing up the wrong tree, let me of­fer my apolo­gies in ad­vance for any mis­takes I might make that might be based on my lack of in­for­ma­tion or a mis­un­der­stand­ing of in­for­ma­tion re­layed to me. Yes, yes, I know that seek­ing ab­so­lu­tion in ret­ro­spect is all the rage th­ese days, you know, be­lated guar­an­tees, and ap­provals after-the-fact be­ing quite de rigeur in this topsy turvy lit­tle na­tion, but for once, I would like to apol­o­gize in ad­vance, just to be on the safe side, and pos­si­bly avoid a mil­lion dol­lar law­suit or two from del­i­cate souls that should never have been in­volved in the rough and tum­ble of pub­lic life in the first place.

Many of us are con­cerned about the risk of the deadly Ebola Virus reach­ing our shores, so it was not sur­pris­ing to hear a caller ask­ing one of our most over­bear­ing, self-opin­ion­ated talk-show hosts whether Saint Lu­cia was ready to face the threat of an Ebola at­tack or not. The host of course, be­ing a dili­gent pro­tec­tor of the faith, could not an­swer the ques­tion hon­estly or oth­er­wise be­cause his Min­istry of Health had, a few days pre­vi­ously, an­nounced that the coun­try was in­deed ready to face the threat. So what did he do? He coun­tered with a de­mand of his own: Tell me which coun­try in the world is ready! Is any coun­try ready? which of course was not the point. The bul­ly­ing host even­tu­ally threw the caller off the show after hav­ing ridiculed him for not an­swer­ing his (the host’s) ques­tion con­cern­ing global preparedness. That guy is re­ally some­thing else! Even his Prime Min­is­ter ad­mits we are not pre­pared for an Ebola in­va­sion.

But don’t despair, Dear Reader, our Prime Min­is­ter, like the Em­peror strut­ting around in his fine new clothes made of the cloth of in­tel­lec­tual su­pe­ri­or­ity, has pro­nounced that pas­sen­gers from Nige­ria will not only need a visa to en­ter Saint Lu­cia but will also be re­quired to present a “re­cent med­i­cal cer­tifi­cate” clear­ing them of the virus, so we should be safe …

You know Folks, there is only so much id­iocy a per­son should have to en­dure be­fore it is classed as cruel and in­hu­mane pun­ish­ment. The Ebola Virus kills within three weeks after its symp­toms ap­pear – three weeks, so much we know. Does the Prime Min­is­ter re­ally be­lieve in his wildest of hal­lu­ci­na­tions that a cit­i­zen of Nige­ria could ap­ply for and re­ceive a visa to en­ter a far-dis­tant, re­mote, diplo­mat­i­cally in­ac­ces­si­ble coun­try like Saint Lu­cia within the in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod of the Ebola Virus? Any visa, and lord only knows how that visa would be ob­tained in a timely fash­ion by a cit­i­zen of Nige­ria - Dr An­thony most cer­tainly does not – would have no va­lid­ity be­cause it would al­ready be months old by the time the trav­eler landed on our shores. And as for the ‘re­cent med­i­cal cer­tifi­cate”, well, gimme me a break, it’s not go­ing to hap­pen. How fea­si­ble is it that a Nige­rian would travel to Saint Lu­cia, almost non-stop via London, At­lanta, Mi­ami, Toronto or New York, with­out stop­ping off to see his thir­teen thou­sand rel­a­tives in the Di­as­pora on his way? And what does “re­cent”, given the short pe­riod from con­trac­tion to death, mean any­way? The Virus is not, or so it seems, con­ta­gious un­til the symp­toms ap­pear, so a re­cent med­i­cal cer­tifi­cate is­sued be­fore the symp­toms ap­pear is use­less, ex­cept as a loin­cloth to cover the prime min­is­ter’s in­tel­lec­tual nu­dity. I am re­ally up­set about this. The sever­ity of the sit­u­a­tion de­serves a bet­ter re­sponse. So let’s re­turn to our Min­istry of Health and the fol­low­ing re­port: CASTRIES, St Lu­cia (CMC) -Se­nior Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer (SMO) in the Min­istry of Health Dr Sharon Bel­mar-George says the coun­try is im­prov­ing its readi­ness and abil­ity to re­spond to a pos­si­ble threat of the Ebola virus. Bel­mar

says the Min­istry of Health has taken an ap­proach ap­proved by both re­gional and in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

The truth is that the med­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment in Saint Lu­cia is up in arms be­cause they have not been con­sulted. They are the ones who will be sent into bat­tle to risk their lives in the event of an Ebola at­tack, and yet their ad­vice and con­cerns are not heeded.

This in­cludes ed­u­ca­tion and sen­si­ti­za­tion for health and non-health work­ers in­clud­ing stake­hold­ers, in­creased ac­tive surveil­lance at ports of en­try and ac­tive surveil­lance at high­risk in­sti­tu­tions such as med­i­cal schools, re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions, and ho­tels.

This is un­qual­i­fied bull­shit. The Ebola Virus should be stopped by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity at its source. The na­tions in­volved should be of­fered mas­sive aid in ev­ery form pos­si­ble – which the in­hab­i­tants would prob­a­bly wel­come with open arms; they

would sud­denly dis­cover that they never had it so good – and quar­an­tined un­til the spread of the Virus was brought un­der con­trol. No travel out of the coun­try would be al­lowed. Ports would be strictly mon­i­tored as aid en­tered the coun­try. Yes, Africa be­ing Africa, where cor­rup­tion is en­demic, no more so than in Nige­ria – the “rich and fa­mous” will still find a way to travel, but the num­bers will be small and eas­ily mon­i­tored.

Any in­fected pas­sen­ger has to be in­ter­cepted at the port of en­try into St Lu­cia and se­questered un­til his or her demise or re­cov­ery is com­plete. They must not reach the ho­tels. And as for re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions, well, they should be able to take care of them­selves; they have God on their side, but they might be tempted to ask why God in some sort of “hung-over lousy-mood state’ de­cided to re­ward us with the Ebola Virus.

And as to why med­i­cal schools are sin­gled out for spe­cial treat­ment as “high risk”, well, I am bug­gered if I know. Maybe they want to make sure all the wannabe medics are wiped out. I mean, se­ri­ously folks, are there any func­tion­ing brains out there?

Health care in­sti­tu­tions and health care work­ers have been placed on alert with iso­la­tion rooms iden­ti­fied at all ma­jor health in­sti­tu­tions.

I sim­ply do not be­lieve this, and nei­ther do my doc­tor friends. OK, there is a chance that iso­la­tion rooms have been “iden­ti­fied” but I would bet ev­ery cent I have that noth­ing has been done to pre­pare th­ese rooms to re­ceive Ebola-stricken pa­tients to­day or to­mor­row – be­cause that is where we are, St Lu­cia: THE PLAGUE CAN HIT US TO­DAY, TO­MOR­ROW, ANY TIME FROM NOW ON! Iden­ti­fy­ing rooms will not be enough. The rooms have to be pre­pared and manned 24/7 in or­der to be ef­fec­tive.

The SMO noted that

the min­istry has in­creased the surveil­lance of vis­i­tors with a six-week travel his­tory to ar­eas that may have had cases of Ebola.

Yeah, sure. So a guy who has trav­elled from Sierra Leone via, say London, feels re­ally great, maybe a bit horny after hours of travel ‘cos he is go­ing to meet this chick he met in London last year where they had the time of their lives and, sorry, “fucked them­selves silly”, and he bought a ticket from Free­town to London and another from London to St Lu­cia, so there is no ob­vi­ous trace of his ori­gin, and the amaz­ingly alert Im­mi­gra­tion Of­fi­cer asks if he has been in Sierra Leone in the past four weeks, do you think our horny trav­eler is go­ing to risk his night of bliss by ad­mit­ting where he came from? That’s why we have AIDS. The hu­man con­di­tion will risk all for a good fuck! Sorry, but some­times things have to be said. No­body is go­ing to openly ad­mit that they came from West Africa know­ing that they will be de­nied en­try. It’s hu­man na­ture!

But let us pro­ceed; another re­port, I think from ABC goes on: “A gov­ern­ment state­ment Wed­nes­day stated that given the ex­tent of the out­break of the Ebola Virus in those West African coun­tries, Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kenny An­thony has ad­vised the Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice, Ver­non Fran­cois, to im­ple­ment with im­me­di­ate ef­fect, a pro­hi­bi­tion on per­sons from th­ese coun­tries who wish to travel to St Lu­cia.”

The id­iocy con­tin­ues: Hands up all of you who feel that the Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice is ca­pa­ble of im­ple­ment­ing with “im­me­di­ate ef­fect” – how laugh­able can it get, I mean, ask the Com­mis­sioner what he has done, not now, not to­day, but in a month’s time about the Ebola out­break, and I can almost guar­an­tee you, the an­swer will be “bug­ger all” – “a pro­hi­bi­tion on peo­ple who wish to travel to St Lu­cia.” Where in heaven’s name is this “pro­hi­bi­tion” to take place if not at the ar­rival hall at He­wanorra? OK? So here comes this chick from Liberia; for in­com­pre­hen­si­ble rea­sons, she has ad­mit­ted where she came from; in marches “our Ver­non” who takes her into his cus­tody in or­der to “pro­hibit” her; re­mem­ber, she might be in­fected by the Ebola Virus; now what the heck does “our Ver­non” do with her? The im­age of the Po­lice Com­mis­sioner clad in a jumbo-sized garbage bag – we have no haz­ard suits – de­fies the imag­i­na­tion as he takes her into his cus­tody. The air­line is un­likely to want to trans­port a pos­si­ble Ebola vic­tim back to London, and what the other pas­sen­gers will think is pretty clear. So what does “our Ver­non” do with the chick; does he do what comes nat­u­rally, or does he wait, like any red-blooded West In­dian male, till she has a clean bill of health and then do what a man has to do with his ward?

The press re­lease went on to re­late that PM An­thony said that St Lu­cia would con­tinue to mon­i­tor the out­break and has al­lo­cated re­sources to pre­pare for any pos­si­ble threat. There is no known cure for the virus that has killed nearly 5,000 peo­ple mainly in the three af­fected West African coun­tries.

Two things here: what­ever re­sources the PM has al­lo­cated – if in­deed he has al­lo­cated any at all, which I se­ri­ously doubt – will be to­tally in­ad­e­quate. Ebola spreads like wild­fire. It could, I be­lieve, wipe out the whole pop­u­la­tion of St Lu­cia within months, per­haps weeks. Be­fore a week was out, Ebola in­flicted trav­el­ers would have car­ried the dis­ease to St Vincent, Do­minica and fur­ther afield through LIAT, and no­body would have thought to ask if they came from West Africa. Al­lo­cat­ing re­sources is a waste of time. What we need is ac­tion – now! But of course, we have to make sure that what­ever ac­tions we take will be ben­e­fi­cial to the na­tion if the Ebola Virus never lands on St Lu­cia. We have to start im­ple­ment­ing emer­gency pro­ce­dures that will be to the ben­e­fit of all, not to those who are, sadly, almost cer­tainly bound to die from the Ebola Virus. Let’s make some­thing good come out of this.

“Re­cent events in Dal­las, Texas have prompted a height­ened aware­ness and ne­ces­si­tate strong ac­tion to en­sure that St Lu­cia is pro­tected,” the PM said.

Let’s be re­al­is­tic; noth­ing we can do can pro­tect us. Once the Ebola Virus strikes St Lu­cia, we will have no other re­course but to hun­ker down, re­tire to our shel­ters and avoid con­tact. We sim­ply do not have the re­sources at our dis­posal. Our doc­tors are not ob­li­gated to risk their lives try­ing to save those who are al­ready doomed. A doc­tor’s first duty, ac­cord­ing to his or her Hip­po­cratic Oath is “To do no harm.” It could well be ar­gued that any doc­tor who lays down his or her life in the ser­vice of those al­ready doomed would be caus­ing harm to the count­less oth­ers that he or she could help in times to come.

The Gov­ern­ment state­ment said that the Min­istry of Health will con­tinue to mon­i­tor de­vel­op­ments in the US and Europe, as well as the three se­verely af­fected West African coun­tries and will pro­vide up­dates to the pub­lic.

Well, the Gov­ern­ment in its iso­la­tion can con­tinue to mon­i­tor world events; the rest of us have CNN and the BBC.

And fi­nally, just in case you should think that I am be­ing un­duly pes­simistic and un­fair to our PM, let me add one fi­nal re­ported quote: Dr An­thony says the travel ban is nec­es­sary be­cause St. Lu­cia is a poor, small coun­try that does not have the ca­pac­ity “to man­age any cri­sis that lands on our doorstep.”

You see, at the end of the day, we sim­ply do not have the ca­pac­ity to cope; the PM says so …

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