Easter in the Time of COVID-19
In 1979, as Shake Keane reminds us, “The thing split Good Friday in two”. This year Covid-19 will determine how we spend Easter. Well, possibly, for we are a stubborn people and like to do our own thing.
The Government through the CMO issued an Advisory which of course leaves it up to the good sense of the people. We are reluctant to regulate since this is an election year. But in a time of crisis where the enemy is still largely unknown, we cannot leave things to the initiative of individuals, especially in cases where one misstep can affect hundreds of persons even without them knowing. The Churches are asked to consider radio broadcast and also the use of social media, but they could continue their traditional services once they are prepared to strictly enforce physical distancing. The Seven Day Adventists have suspended from April 6, all corporate worships, and other meetings until further notice. They advised their members to be guided by the Spirit of the Lord and Good Common Sense.
While Government is only prepared to advise and hope that persons will comply, other activities might be forcing their hands. On Sunday the Vincentian Transportation Association (VINTAS) stated that they would withdraw services for two weeks from Wednesday, that is from yesterday. They claimed that it was not a strike, but an effort to join forces with Government and to safeguard the health of their members. Not a strike! A strange statement. Government’s Advisory was for the Easter period, apparently starting from Good Friday to Easter Monday. The suggestion is that from Tuesday next it will be business as usual, that is as it was on the Thursday before Good Friday. But they have gone beyond what the Government intends. In fact, their services are withdrawn before Friday. If we are to judge the minivan operators on their recent history, one suspects that all will not adhere to what was decided. But then the recommended new regulations and compensation offered do not satisfy them, so anything goes.
Easter will be a test for the churches and people generally. Will there be beach picnics, will there be defiance of physical distancing recommendations; will the churches simply put everything into God’s hands and hope for the best?
But all of this will not drive away the fears and concerns of many Vincentians. In fact, if the Easter Advisory fails to get the support of the majority of people, it will be business as usual. Our situation is not clear. We have so far tested about 56 persons, Dominica has tested 293, Trinidad and Tobago, 845, and Barbados, 559. Our sample is still small. I imagine without testing kits, (I am told we have now received some), we were probably unable to test more. 460 persons are in quarantine, self-quarantine with all its limitations. One assumes that these are people who came into contact in some form, with persons who were found positive. With our own test kits, one hopes that more tests will be done, and we could better assess our situation. I rest here because a news item just appeared indicating that we have now registered our 8th confirmed case.
The question is, how much longer will we wait before introducing strict regulations as our neighbours have been doing, along with the rest of the world? All of the confirmed cases have been from persons entering the country. Our challenge is to prevent community spread and the only how we can do this is to restrict activity and contact. In a crisis like this we should not await and hope that people will exercise good sense. Will we first allow things to get out of hand? Let us have strong and clear directives and ensure careful monitoring. We might all be inconvenienced, but it will ultimately be better for all of us. Happy Easter to All. Stay Home and be Safe.
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian