Multiple threats facing Vincentians
If we thought that the events of 2020 posed serious threats to our health, well-being and economic survival, then here comes 2021. Going in to only the second week of the new year, not only is the COVID-19 threat still with us, it has worsened considerably. Then there is still dengue which has actually been responsible for several deaths, unlike COVID-19, at least to date. To make matters even worse, we now have the looming danger of the eruption of La Soufriere literally over our heads.
Our COVID-19 situation is the most serious it has been since the beginning of the pandemic. At press time we had 49 active cases, with, most worryingly, 23 of them occurring in locals without a recent history of travel. Hundreds of people are in quarantine among them leading health officials, including the Health Minister and Chief Medical Officer.
Then yesterday, we learned that the high command of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force had been touched by the scourge of COVID-19, with the Deputy Commissioner and five other police officers testing positive and other high ranking officers being ordered to quarantine.
The fact that those at the helm of the fight against COVID-19 — health workers and police officers — have themselves been stricken is particularly concerning.
This brings into focus one of the challenges confronting local health officials, that of contact tracing. The problem is that the greater the number of persons testing positive for the virus, particularly in the case of local clusters, the greater the difficulties facing them.
In fact these officials have disclosed that their investigation into local cases is being somewhat hampered because some persons for reasons of their own are reluctant to open up about their contacts and the places they have been recently.
Vincentians have now been jolted into reality and, for the first time there is a growing fear about the consequences of the spread of the virus. It has in turn had a positive effect in the adherence to the persistent calls for the wearing of masks. We both welcome this response and encourage such steps and again express our abhorrence of those who attempt to undermine public safety by the spreading of false information.
One serious area of concern is that of public transportation. It is a very practical problem, for given the nature of our society, many people simply cannot work at home because of the nature of their employment or their lack of the necessary resources to facilitate such arrangements. So there is no alternative to the minibus gauntlet especially in light of the fact that the current spread of the virus leaves private vehicle owners even more reluctant to offer rides to commuters.
There seems to be some reluctance on the part of the authorities to institute even the limited restrictions on passenger loads imposed at the outbreak of the pandemic when we had single-digit cases, and there is fear among those with no choice but to take public transportation. Some minibus drivers are still seen driving without masks and travelling to and from work is becoming a most harrowing experience. Serious measures must be put in place in this regard.
We have made reference here to some irresponsible persons in our midst who persist in using the social media in particular to propagate false information, undermining official efforts to combat the growing threats. It is also happening in relation to the effusive eruptions of the Soufriere volcano.
We should all be immensely proud that a son of the soil, Professor Richard Robertson, with parental roots in a community literally facing the volcano is heading the monitoring unit. Instead there are some who, rather than use their positions of influence to encourage our people to listen to and be guided by official information and instructions, persist in rumour-mongering.
We have experienced volcanic eruptions before and our experience should better prepare us for any coming danger. We can only succeed if we eschew selfish trends and forge national unity in a common fight for survival. We all have to play our part.