It's an unwelcome return that many including health officials dreaded-a surge in COVID-19 cases. Now that society has reopened, life has resumed and attention turned away from the virus, many fear the never-ending struggles of the pandemic limbo.

Just over one month ago, the Government of Dominica through the Ministry of Health, Wellness, and New Health Investments announced its decision to relax the COVID-19 protocols and restrictions, effective April 4, 2022.

In easing restrictions, the health minister, Dr. Irving McIntyre cited the declining COVID-19 cases as the reason for the removal of most of the measures as according to him, his government had continuously assessed the COVID-19 situation to make "rational decisions for the safety of citizens."

Protocols lifted-masking remains

Among protocols revised were, the restriction on social activities, public transportation is allowed to operate at full capacity, restrictions on educational institutions were removed as face-to-face learning was reinstated, all bars and nightclubs are allowed to resume normal operations with controlled numbers as well as a physical distancing of six feet are no longer mandatory at businesses and establishments among others. Although Dr. McIntyre said the mask mandate remains in effect and will be reviewed in May, its removal is dependent on an increase in vaccination numbers and a further reduction in COVID-19 cases. Yet, many have simply dropped their mask.

As of May 6, 2022, Dominica recorded a total of 282 active cases with 63 total deaths compared to 63 active cases a week earlier.

Consequently, there are a number of competing hypotheses that some explain the rise mainly, waning immunity, the relaxation of mitigations, and behavioral changes.

The Sun spoke to an educator, Miss Esprit who said that the educational system is burdened due to the now rising cases.

"This week alone my entire Grade K class was out because one student contracted the virus and this posed a threat not only to the rest of the class but all the other students in school because as much as we say keep the mask on, they are young children and they solemnly follow instructions," she said.

The senior educator proposed that the government mandate certain protocols which were revised in an effort to control the number of infections as she averred that the surge in cases is being driven by events that may feel deceptively safe.

"I believe for now all the jams and fetes that are happening are unnecessary, that can wait," she suggested. "If you do have these activities it should be mandated that all people get tested before not only the unvaccinated. Your vaccination status does not stop you from spreading and even contracting the virus."

Protect yourself

Dr. McIntyre who spoke to State-owned DBS Radio acknowledged that the government's edict has resulted in the increase in COVD-19 numbers.

"Yes, we have seen an increase in the positivity rate and that is because we relaxed the restrictions like every other country in the world but what must be augmented with the relaxed restriction is the human behavior and we must take responsibility for our actions," Dr. McIntyre said.

The Health Minister who sees vaccination as the fastest way to end the pandemic also recently expressed his disappointment in the reduction in vaccination coverage, and a decline in the total number of vaccines administered.

However, Dominican-born Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa Etienne advised the government that should Dominica not reach the 70% COVID-19 vaccination target by June 2022 health authorities must implement measures and take actions to meet this target to not further burden an already strained health system.

-By Ronalda Luke