Dr Calum Macpherson


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Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Director of research at St George’s University, Grenada Dr Calum Macpherson said the world had responded in a myriad of ways to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the virus did not listen to the rhetoric of politicians and this was evident in the outcome of two of the most infected countries in the world today were those public health experts had not been listened to and therefore the virus spread of control.

Macpherson made the statement at yesterday’s virtual Global Youth Network Summit on Climate Change and Health, hosted by Unicef and the Ashley Lashley Foundation.

Macpherson, who was one of the several panelists engaged in the discussion said, “We must remember that human behaviour is often the forgotten factor in a disease control.”

He noted one of the areas the Caribbean should be very proud of was that of the 30 small islands of the Caribbean states—20 per cent had no deaths from COVID-19 and this was as a result of the adhering to public health instructions by experts, early lockdowns and border closures, etc.

At the same time Macpherson noted it also placed the Caribbean in a bit of a conundrum.

He said, “We are immunologically naive and as we open our borders for tourism which is the life of many of our countries economically, we are going to have to be even more vigilant as people with this virus may come into the region.”

He noted one of the big debates currently in various parts of the world was the concern on how countries could safely reopen universities and other education institutes and facilities.

He said those that propose a very quick opening point to the fact that young children suffer less from this disease, infect others less and it allows if they are at school, for parents to go back to work and contribute to the economy, whereas, those that were a little bit more cautious point to the very little was known about this new virus.

“We don’t know if you’ve been infected before, would you get infected with another strain of the virus? And like other viruses like dengue, the second infection or subsequent infections can be even worse. We know that there are syndromes that are occurring in young children. But we also appreciate that we know very little about the epidemiology of this virus,” Macpherson said.

He said it was now fully appreciated the virus was transmitted through aresolised droplets and that the non-pharmaceutical methods of wearing masks, physical distancing or testing, tracing, isolating and hand washing worked very well. And this was known from the evidence of so many countries that had done a fantastic job on mitigating the virus’s spread.

“I just want to mention that education is the most powerful weapon that can change the world, so said the late and great Nelson Mandela. We’ve got to take the best practices from those countries where the infection rates are near zero or to zero and use those as we reopen and as we evolve because we are very new—only six months into this pandemic and we are learning a lot,” Macpherson advised.