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Might not be the worst of times but we into rough times!

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We are in the midst of two serious crises, each with enormous problems for us. I speak of course about the current coronavirus pandemic and the impending threat of  an explosive volcanic eruption. We start with a politically- divided country.  Tackling any serious national problem demands a united approach, but we seem incapable of so doing. In such situations we should really utilise all skills and experiences that could be brought to bear on our problems regardless of their political colouration.

First, the volcano! Fortunately  for us, we had an explosive eruption some 42 years ago the same year we became an independent nation, the volcano having erupted some 77 years before this.  I say this to make the point that in all our planning for a more dangerous phase of the eruption, we must be reminded that at such a critical point people do not necessarily behave rationally and calmly. All the best laid out plans could easily fall flat, at least in the early stages. Let us say, and I am speaking without knowledge of the planning and the discussions with potential evacuees, that some people are to be evacuated by sea. Unless the boats are waiting in the harbour, it will be all man/woman to themselves, and any port for a storm! For certainly we cannot predict the time of day or night that such an eruption will take place. There will be a mad rush for the first available means of getting out of the area.

     I am not aware that the population outside the areas likely to be affected, has been privy to the plans. An explosive eruption will disrupt the whole country, so it is important that the country be kept abreast of the plans and what is expected of them. I hear advice being given to people to store water, to use an example. Will the transportation being made available to those in need, be able to accommodate all their belongings? Then we have to build into this the fact that we are in the delicate stages of a pandemic. In 1979 private persons would have accommodated some in their homes. This is unlikely to happen given fears of Covid-19. In the relocation, will physical distancing be possible. If it is, how will this be arranged. Let us remember that schools will be used as evacuation centres. Schools resume operation next week and will be equipped to accommodate students and teachers, so most likely adjustments will have to be made. This can be done easily if the volcano alerted us before- hand that it will explode on a particular day and at a particular time. The situation is not obviously an easy one for which to plan. The more the nation is alerted to the plans, the easier might the adjustments be made. In such an eventuality regular schooling will be impossible, even on-line.

This week has exposed some of the problems we have dealing with the pandemic. I am told that hundreds of Vincentians went to Bequia, to the beaches and most likely to party. By Monday when it was realised that things had gotten out of hand, the police apparently took control of the beaches. I was made to understand that there were places on the mainland with loud music and regular partying. Now what of the existing protocols! Why hasn’t there been proper enforcement by the authorities?

As I write I am not aware of the outcome of a meeting between the government and three unions/bodies that had objected to having unvaccinated public servants subjected to covid tests every two weeks. It becomes more and more obvious that we have gone about the issue of vaccination in the wrong way. What is needed is education and proper communication, not efforts to force people to take vaccinations when there are so many questions still remaining about the efficacy of the vaccines. Honest and informed discussion is needed, leaving the ultimate decision to the individuals. That is the only way to go, certainly not bulldozing!

l Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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