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Challenging Times

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Many of us welcomed with great expectation, even if unable to celebrate, the passage from 2020 to 2021. We hoped that the particular challenges, headaches, and fears would have become something of the past.

I made the point already that the change from 2020 to 2021 was simply a movement from one day to another. What matters most is a change of attitudes, a willingness to alter direction, for the government to become inclusive and bring all hands on deck as we tackle the new realities of 2021. As we approached the end of the year I worried when I heard about the spike in neighbouring countries that had opened their borders and relaxed many of their restrictions. I was shocked with the manner in which we conducted the November election campaign. At first there was an effort at virtual campaigning, but we then threw caution to the wind and went flat out. All that was missing were the foreign artistes. We enjoyed the electioneering spoils, in the process discarding masks as though the pandemic was something of the past. We should have known what needed to be done when our neighbours’ houses were on fire.

I had expected a cancellation of Nine Morning activities and others that involved mass gatherings. The frequent calls to wear masks and do social/physical distancing was simply amusing. I am yet to understand how you do social distancing at dances and other activities that attracted huge crowds. By the end of the year the situation had changed, and Old Year’s Night festivities were cancelled. Was it that the chickens were coming home to roost? But no sooner had Covid-19 reminded us that it was still around, we got unexpected news about unusual activities at the Soufriere. Monitoring of the volcano was stepped up, as a team from the Seismic Unit of the UWI came and installed new equipment. We were told that there was an effusive and not an explosive eruption. Persons likely to be affected if the activity became explosive were urged to listen to updates and to ready themselves for evacuation if that happened. Let us hope that the activity continues as it did in 1971/2 . In the event of an explosive eruption, we have the experience of 1979 to inform us. There are persons around who have first- hand experience of 1979 so hopefully they will be fully utilised. The Covid- 19 pandemic on the other hand is new to us but we are now better informed than a few months ago.

I was informed today, Wednesday, that we have 16 new positive cases of the virus. Things are changing rapidly for 11 of them are Vincentians with no travel history. 10 were associated with clusters already identified. They are trying to do contract tracing for the other person. We now have 49 active cases and have recorded overall 149. Hearing that senior members of the Ministry of Health have been asked to quarantine because of possible contact with positive patients raises concerns, as with the news that a couple health workers and port and seaport police have tested positive. I imagine talk of community spread is not an issue! Does it mean that all cases can be linked to clusters and that we can have as many clusters as possible? The protocols have been changed but are we not still leaving too much to people to be responsible. I am worried about the minibuses. Wearing masks must certainly be done but what about the vans being packed. Is it that wearing masks negates the need to social distance?

I want to suggest that the communication strategy be updated. Information does not flow as readily as it should. Often there are rumours around for some time, some of which turn out to be true but then there are others that remain rumours. Timely and carefully worded releases are necessary bearing in mind that they are meant to target the public.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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