By Orville Williams
The government has maintained that, with the return of Carnival less than three weeks away, it is unlikely there will be any Covid-19 restrictions applied to any elements of the festival.
Having been suspended since the last staging back in 2019 due to the pandemic, there has been growing anticipation among patrons and organisers for this year’s Carnival, despite the absence of some key components due to logistical challenges.
But there are also faint concerns about the sustained threat of Covid-19, as the celebrations – though innocent in principle – could inadvertently become superspreading events.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas fielded queries on the government’s approach to Carnival during yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, declaring, “No, we have not considered any return to any mandates”.
He also referred to the current vaccination figures and the attitude of safety being displayed by many in the country, as reason for allowing the festival to go ahead without any Covid-related rules.
“The issues that drive the vaccination numbers really have to do with the severity of any variant of Covid and any personal feeling of vulnerability that the general population may have,” he said.
“But I think it’s fair to say that the public is now at a level where – while many persons remain cautious – maybe the younger portion of the population, you’ll see them at fetes and parties without masks. And certainly, it would not be feasible to be wearing a mask in such an environment.
“So, there is a level of comfort and a degree of carefreeness that has now seeped into the way we are living. People are living with the reality that, should they become affected by Covid, it would not be severe and that they can get out of it in a matter of a week or two,” Minister Nicholas explained.
In the height of the pandemic, events like those held during the Carnival season were forbidden due to the risk of Covid-19 spread and the relatively low vaccination rate.
This approach continued for the better part of two years, before the spread of the virus slowed, coinciding with increased vaccinations.
While acknowledging the markedly improved situation, the Information Minister reaffirmed that the country is not yet in the clear, so caution must certainly still be adopted.
“It is a false sense of security, because one never knows if there is going to be another variant that would create some kind of cataclysmic problems for us. I think that is why the Minister of Health has taken the position that it is still a threat, and to that extent, we have to remain cautious [and] we still encourage persons to go out and become vaccinated.
“I’m aware of recent efforts by the Ministry of Health to procure additional vaccines – including AstraZeneca – to always be in a position of readiness, to be able to respond should there be a latent outbreak of any variant of Covid in the population.
“Certainly, we cannot consider the issue of the pandemic a closed issue,” Nicholas added.
This year’s official Carnival celebrations are scheduled to take place from July 27 to August 2.