Our nation calls, let’s respond collectively
As if to remind us that there are far greater problems than the ones we create, the wrangle between the Teachers’ Union, the Public Service Union and Police Welfare Association over vaccine workplace policy has been overtaken by the imminent explosive eruption of the Soufriére volcano and the evacuation order for persons living in the danger zone.
Now whatever our grievances, collective survival is the order of the day, and we must all confront the danger with unity of purpose. Already the evacuation has started and people in the danger zone have already been relocating. Some will stay with friends or family; others in government-designated shelters, including guest houses, while the generosity of neighbouring governments and cruise ship operators will provide accommodation either in other islands or on the cruise ships themselves.
It is ironic that just as a big hullaballoo was being made on the matter of vaccinations against COVID-19, the same vaccinations has now become an issue in the evacuation and relocation process. Vaccination of relocated persons is a crucial matter. For those accepted to go to neighbouring islands, governments who have been far more successful than us in the vaccination process, have made it clear that such persons must have been vaccinated, and in at least one case, has offered to administer the vaccination on arrival. A vaccination certificate is therefore almost tantamount to a passport.
A similar situation applies with the cruise ships which are hoping to resume operations for the tourist season, they cannot afford to risk contamination and also will require testing and vaccination.
But the biggest risk lies locally, for if evacuees are neither tested nor vaccinated, we can end up with a horrendous COVID problem. When people are frustrated, having had to flee the comfort of their homes, all this will not be music in their ears. Yet the reality is that many of the un-vaccinated will be more susceptible to infection and those having to take provided transport will also be very much exposed.
No one can say for how long this state of affairs will last, but in addition to the matters raised here, there is the more long-lasting effect on the economy. We have already been battered for more than a year, forced to spend more with reduced incomes, having to take care of the vulnerable, the jobless, those with reduced incomes and above all, trying to meet the needs of our frustrated children.
Any violent eruption is sure to have a further crippling effect on our economy. It must be borne in mind that our agricultural sector has enabled us to overcome some of the worst effects of the pandemic. Any volcanic eruption will hit our agricultural sector and local food production hard.
In the face of this, the PM has wisely called for calm and discipline as we face the crisis. This is a time for us all to band together , to set aside differences and work hand in hand to save our nation.