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Let’s keep our guard

Let’s keep our guard

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The promised vaccine for arresting the coronavirus pandemic may be on the horizon, but the reality is that the pandemic continues to spread, alarmingly in some countries. The global statistics published daily tell us all, irrespective of where we reside on earth that no one is immune.

Most worryingly, there is in motion a reaction to the necessary health and social measures aimed at containing the disease. In the United States for example, one of the worst affected countries, millions appear to have ignored the warnings about travel and social gatherings for the traditional Thanksgiving holiday. Whilst on the other side of the Atlantic, despite the recent resurgence of the COVID -19, there is open defiance of official restrictive measures.

Two fundamental arguments are advanced in defence of this resistance. One is economic for clearly if the lockdowns continue, economies will grind to a halt, as will the availability of resources to combat the disease. The other is of a more ideological nature, arguing that under the umbrella of universal human rights, no state is entitled to restrict the personal freedoms of citizens.

We in the Caribbean have been very fortunate so far where COVID infection is concerned. Indeed some Caribbean countries were praised for their handling of the COVID threat after their initial reactions involving lockdowns and closure of air spaces in some instances. But the new upsurge has shaken the foundations of that apparent security and exposed the vulnerability of our small states.

Our heavy dependence on tourism and international travel dictates that we cannot remain closed to the outside world lest our economies collapse. So we have to find ways to walk the economic tightrope with COVID on one side and economic doom on the other. Additionally our people, with a combination of “that can’t happen to us”, false theories and all too prevalent disregard for the safety, not just of others, but of ourselves as well, have been becoming less vigilant in the face of the threat.

Reality is catching up with us. Even as we boast of increased tourist arrivals, the statistics provide a source for real concern. A number of our neighbours are going in the wrong direction. It has caused strains within the proposed “Caribbean travel bubble” to the extent that it has virtually collapsed and we are back to individual decrees.

But Caribbean travel is not only about official entry and departure. There is a lot on informal travel and contact between these island states that is very difficult to control. This means that as long as the COVID danger lurks in your neighbourhood, you must be on the alert.

Our sister isle of St Lucia is currently in danger with a sharp spike in cases including, most worryingly now, community spread. Some have attributed this to ongoing contact with persons in neighbouring Martinique. Just as those two countries have a lot of informal contact, difficult to regulate, so too do we have with St Lucia. Shouldn’t our alarm bells begin to ring?

In the early days, each single report of a case of the pandemic provoked near panic locally. But we have become much more complacent locally. We need to step up our vigilance whilst maintaining our sensible and balanced national policy. The wolf cannot be far from our door.