A nation in limbo

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We are all familiar with the word ‘limbo.’ It denotes a state of uncertainty. One dictionary defines being in ‘limbo’ as “A situation where one does not know what will happen, or when something will happen.” When a person is caught in limbo, he or she is between two states. There is unpredictability. Some say that it is not a good place to be. Others argue that it is the vagaries of life, “the glorious uncertainties,” much like cricket, that make it so very interesting.

Of course, the inescapable limbo situation that we are now facing is that of this Covid-19 pandemic. Who knows where, when or how this mess will end? Who knows how many more lives will be lost? No one knows, not even Teodros Ghebreyesus and his team of experts at the World Health Organisation. Covid is an unknown quantity – fraught with deadly and ever-shifting fortunes. Remember,after the first brutal outbreak, many countries thought that they’d beaten Covid, only to hastily return to shutdown measures after Covid reared its ugly head in a deadly second wave.Now, many countries are resorting to tough measures again, what with Covid, much like the ubiquitous devil grass, reappearing and wreaking havoc in a dastardly third wave.These are dread and uncertain times.

Consider the United Kingdom where the authorities were forced to go into a month-long lockdown at the beginning of this month, on account of a nasty Covid resurgence. It is still not a sure thing that the UK will reopen in the first few days of December as planned. Seems Covid is a whimsical and capricious word that rhymes with ‘witch.’ True, the Covid whimsy has a great deal to do with our responsible behavior, or lack thereof. If we follow the hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing protocols; if we practice good coughing and sneezing etiquette, and fist-bump and elbow-touch, rather than kissing and embracing, we significantly reduce the chances of contracting and/or spreading the virus. Our behavior is critical.

Which beg other questions such as: Will there be a deadly Covid mutation? When will we see a stabilising of the alarming Covid numbers in the United States and Europe? When will the much-touted vaccines, like the Moderna and the PfizerNBiotech offerings, become widely available? Will president-elect Joe Biden’s Covid task force be able to undo some of the enormous damage done by the irresponsible Trump administration? Will our world be seeing some sort of return to ‘normalcy,’ albeit a ‘new normalcy,’ any time soon? The world is in limbo!

Here in Antigua and Barbuda, we too have our share of local uncertainties. We have been seeing an uptick, be it ever so slight, in our Covid numbers, and that is cause for some alarm. Many have suggested that that is our new normal, and that we will have to learn to live with this inexorable drip, drip of infections until such time when the vaccine reaches our shores.  

Then there is the question of what will become of our cruise tourism industry. Never mind the gratuitous ‘feel-good’ talk from those in high places, the forecast is grim. At least, in the immediate future. Canada is still on lockdown. As is the UK. And the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has placed us in a ‘level-four risk’ category, that is, a ‘very high level’ of Covid-19. They are warning Americans not to come here. None of the aforementioned factors bode well for our visitor arrivals. In fact, our US Ambassador, Ron Sanders, has called the US action a matter of ‘life and death’ for tourism-dependent States such as ours. He is absolutely correct, and we certainly trust that his entreaties to the US authorities on our behalf will quickly bear good fruit. The thing is that the main US criteria for countries with populations of 200,000 or less is the number of Covid cases over the past 28 days, and the new case trajectory. Unfortunately, rather than stabilising and trending down, our cases have risen slightly. (The US bases its conclusions on numbers provided to the World Health Organisation). Other considerations include hospitalisation rates and total testing positivity rates. (The CDC relies on numbers from our Ministry of Health website and the dashboard etc.). Again, it is not known how the US action – placing us in a ‘very high risk’ travel category – will play out. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

In the meantime, there are other areas of uncertainty facing us. We were told that there was supposed to be an Oasis class cruise vessel making a stop at our newly-constructed fifth pier to test the berthing facilities and the turning channel at the end of October. That has not happened, and we have not heard anything else on that matter. Questions abound.

Even on the matter of the State of Emergency, there is uncertainty. Many learned minds, for example, Attorneys Harold Lovell and Charlesworth Tabor, have suggested that all the necessary measures designed to keep us safe during this Covid crisis are covered under the Antigua and Barbuda Public Health Act, thus proscribing the need for a State of Emergency. We agree with the learned gentlemen. The question is: Will that unnecessary State of Emergency (11pm – 5am) be extended beyond the end of this year? It is a legitimate question given the authoritarian bent of this administration. We call on the government to lift the State of Emergency on New Years Day, 2021.

Other uncertainties include the question of what will become of the traditional late-night Christmas Eve shopping extravaganza? What hours will stores be given to accommodate shoppers? Will stores decide to have more late-night shopping days in the week leading up to Christmas Eve? This will be a Christmas unlike any other, and the crowded stores, as in times past, are certainly a no-no.

And so it goes. Our nation is in limbo.  We are not unique in this existential struggle against Covid, but by joining hearts and hands and minds, and with a steadfast faith in the Almighty, we believe that it is possible to face the unknown future with some degree of confidence.

An American actress, Gilda Radner’s had this to say about fairy tale endings, and believe us, there will not always be those types: “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it.” Indeed, we’re doing just that.

Cue the music. Hold the limbo stick.

 We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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