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It is the worst of times

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WE ARE INTO challenging and unprecedented times where the global village is being taxed to its capacity. The village

is virtually at a partial shutdown. We, of course, are now part of its dynamics and have to try to rise to another level to deal with the effects of what is happening, to make sense of it and to put in place what we are able to, given our limited resources.

Because this virus is new it is leading to a great deal of fear and even panic.

All of us have a part to play and have to show a level of responsibility, for more than ever we are our brothers and sisters’ keepers. Whatever an individual does can impact on all of us. In this regard we have to be careful about spreading false information and about fake news generally. Here is where the shortcomings of our education is very much at play. We had never been taught or pushed to be critical thinkers so that most things that come to us are treated as the gospel truth. We lack the ability to assess the information that comes and certainly there is a lot from the social media alone. There are those who seem to find fun in all of this, whether or not this is a result of panic is not clear, but this is a serious matter and we must all fall in line.

We must be careful about the sources from which we get our information and will be better served to follow releases from the World Health Organisation, the Pan American Health Organisation and other official health sources. Our politicians will do well to allow our health officials more space and time to inform the public and play only a supporting role. We saw this earlier in case of the US where their president was sending a different message to the health officials. A number of things that are happening make absolutely no sense to me. Why is there a rush for toilet paper? Is it because we see this happening elsewhere and feel that we have to fall in line. The rush for hand sanitizers is also strange. I assume that at home we use soap and water, but we might want to have one in our

cars or bags, or at home for visitors.

Our PM last Saturday opted for encouraging intra-regional travel to dampen the impact of the virus on our economies.

This one beats me, coming when most countries, including those in the Caribbean, are restricting travel and urging travel only for essential reasons. Let us remember that the few scares we have had so far are from people flying into the country. Of course, we cannot underestimate the impact of the spread of the virus on our economies. One expects the Finance Ministers to be in dialogue with the CDB, the ECCB, the IMF and other financial institutions. Our first priority is to stop the spread of this virus. This is why I found strange the decision to close schools this weekend took so long, We have to look at social distancing and limit large numbers gathered at any one spot. There are hundreds of children at our schools, and they will do as they usually do, play, touch, and hug each other. We need to limit this. Well one can ask why then not allow schools to continue until their normal Easter break? Let us also remember that there are schools without adequate running water, soap, and other essentials. Our minivans are usually crowded every day taking students to school and workers to their areas of employment. Are they regularly cleaned and sanitised? Are they putting safety measures in place?

Of vital importance at this stage is having regular updates since failure to do so will lead to the spreading of rumour which we need to avoid. Our government must put things in place, but the people have to take their responsibilities seriously. We are truly in a crisis situation!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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