The cruise vessels are now more frequently seen in St John’s Harbour, and souvenir vendors, taxi drivers, and stores on Heritage Quay are seeing an uptick in business. They are tickled. More school children can now be seen hustling to and from school, a joyous smile on their faces. They are happy to be back. As are their parents who are quite relieved that full face-to-face learning, whether a student is vaccinated or not, will return to Antigua and Barbuda in January of next year. According to those in high places at the Cabinet level, “The meeting agreed that figures within all secondary schools indicate that herd immunity has been achieved and more than eighty percent of the secondary school student population is now vaccinated.” [CABINET notes, November 17, 2021]. Of course, those students who remain unvaccinated will have to take a Covid-19 test every two weeks. Mercifully, that test will be free of charge. Heaven knows that most of our parents would not have been able to afford a bi-weekly Covid test for their child/children.
The same thing applies to all public sector workers who will be able to return to work as of December 1, 2021, be they vaccinated or not. If they are unvaccinated, they too will be required to submit to a bi-weekly Covid-19 test, at no charge to themselves. Seems, the bi-weekly Covid tests will be the way forward in the weeks and months ahead. We will have to learn to live with that. It will be the new ‘normal.’
We will also have to continue abiding by the protocols that have kept us relatively safe so far. We’re talking about the good social distancing, the wearing of masks, the regular washing of hands, the boosting of our immune systems, getting a good night’s sleep and regular exercise, and so on and so forth. After all, we are not yet out of the woods, never mind the more relaxed regime. And yes, business places and offices will still have to do the temperature checks, and make sure that persons wishing to enter their establishments, sanitise their hands before being allowed inside. The sinks and buckets outside of many business places will be a fixture for a while yet. Remember, some countries, particularly a number in Europe, had to rush back into restrictions after cautiously opening up. Apparently, Covid is still a word that rhymes with ‘witch!’ It is still viciously attacking the lungs, resulting in pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), organ failure, septic shock and possible death. Even outside of death, Covid can lead to neurological and mental complications such as disorientation, agitation and strokes.
Covid ought not to be trifled with. Those persons with “pressure,” “sugar,” breathing diseases, cancer, obesity, and so on and so forth, ought to pay the more earnest heed. Smokers ought to be wary as well. Even those given to . . . uh . . . fraternising with the practitioners of the world’s oldest profession ought to be exercising extreme caution. (It is not difficult to imagine that that industry must have suffered enormously on account of Covid fears)
You see, folks, there is something called ‘long Covid.’ Seems, even after some people have recovered from the coronavirus, they may still experience chest pains, headaches, difficulty breathing, confusion, tiredness, anxiety, depression, muscle pains, fevers, et al. It is a nightmare, and for many weeks and months after overcoming the disease, the return to normalcy is long in coming.
It is for that reason that we have been urging the unvaccinated to avail themselves of the opportunity to get jabbed, sooner rather than later. Vaccines are our best weapon against this demon spawn – the scourge of our time, and the numbers support it. The last few dashboards reflect new Covid cases in the single digits, and more than a few show zero new cases. The vaccines saved the day, and we can exhale, albeit ever so cautiously.
Meanwhile, competitive sports will resume as of next week Monday, and the indefensible and odious State of Emergency will be lifted before the end of the year. That’s according to the CABINET notes of this past Wednesday. Things are certainly looking up, a far cry from the early days of Covid with the 6pm curfews, the long lines at the supermarkets with the panic buying, the restrictions on church services, the closure of bars and restaurants, the closure of schools, the closure of the airport and port, and the hiatus on beach-going and sporting activities. Many of us felt trapped. Our world turned upside down. At one point, we were told that we could only gather with members of our immediate household. Good grief! We needed an outlet, and some chose to create their own bars and their own entertainment. Of course, law enforcement had to break-up outsized gatherings on the blocks and at makeshift bars in some of the villages, never mind that some of the privileged were able to get away with unauthorised beach parties and big boating excursions. Law enforcement saw and heard no evil when it came to the flouting of the protocols by the connected citizens.
Again, eternal vigilance will be our watchword and song. There is a light at the end of this dreadful Covid tunnel, and if we continue playing it safely, we can be assured that it will not be the headlight of an approaching train. When all is said and done, we’ll be able to declare like the scriptures, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us!” [1 Samuel 7:12]
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