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Caribbean gone mad? On a protest fad?

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When I went to school we were taught about deltas, triangular masses of land at the mouth of large rivers formed by sediments brought down by the river. Large civilisations developed on some of these, the most famous being the Nile delta in Africa, because the delta facilitated agricultural development and supported human development.

In those days we were not taught that there were other alphabets besides the one we used so there was little chance, except for a privileged few, of knowing that there was a Greek alphabet and that delta was one of its letters. In our world of today however the word “delta” has taken on a different meaning, having been used to indicate a particular deadly strain of the coronavirus disease which has so far killed more than four million people the world over. Scientists warn that it is the most deadly strain so far, being even more contagious, having more serious effects and now attacking children in far greater proportion than other variants.

The whole world is afraid of the delta strain and countries, rich and poor, small and large are doing their best to guard against this virus. Amazingly however, while the vast majority of the world’s peoples understand the COVID threat and that of delta in particular, and are taking all kinds of measures to safeguard themselves and to stop the spread, we here in the Caribbean seem to be affected by a dose of collective stupidity.

We have gone from the stage of listening to all kinds of nonsense and fake information, to actually mounting campaigns, not against Covid or delta, but against the only methods proven to be effective in fighting the disease. Protests and demonstrations are being launched right through the region, under the broad banner of “individual freedom”. The same people who were protected against polio, smallpox, measles etc. by vaccines of different types are now insisting on their individual right not to be vaccinated.
Worse, they insist even when they are in sensitive jobs in contact with children and old people for instance, that not only must they have the right not to be vaccinated, but also to refuse to be tested. In this warped logic, the collective right of the rest of the population does not matter, the right of the protesters to take no precautions, to be at risk of contracting the virus and to infect others with whom they come in contact, is more important than the lives of the rest of us.

How could we in the Caribbean accept such a position? How could the purveyors of this crap claim to be upholding “democracy”? Does democracy not relate to the will of the majority? Importantly, what is the solution to combat the coronavirus? Apart from those deluded persons still in denial of the existence of the threat, what solutions are being offered? Must we allow doctors and nurses who refuse to be vaccinated to tend to and possibly infect patients?

We must note that it is the sense of collective responsibility, when there were not yet alternative measures, which drove governments to set aside special homes for persons affected with diseases like tubercolosis and leprosy. It was not the right of the individual to be at home which counted most, but how to stop the spread of disease. Later modern medicinal practices made such measures unnecessary but we must remember that collective responsibility

To add to the irresponsibility, political parties in Opposition, though they claim not to be against vaccination, are joining in the protests and upholding the individual’s right to choose. Instead of providing enlightened leadership, they are tailing the misinformed, the misguided and the mischief makers.

Every society needs to identify what are the main threats to the health, life and well-being of its citizens. Almost 200 of the world’s nations have identified the coronavirus and its deadly strains as being the leading global threat. Collectively they have agreed that among the safety measures (masks and social distancing), vaccinations are the most effective means. Hundreds of millions of people the world over have been safely vaccinated.

Yet there are those trying to deflect the energies of our people into a collective exercise not only in futility, but in further exposing the people of our country to collective harm. The broad coalition is on the wrong side of history. It is but COLLECTIVE MADNESS on a Caribbean scale.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.