No sense of urgency

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Our Covid-19 numbers have gone up a bit in recent weeks. It is more than a trifle disconcerting, albeit not entirely unexpected. After all, we have seen something of a half-hearted approach to some of the social distancing protocols in some circles. This has given rise to calls from the authorities for us to “return to the old landmarks,” so to speak. The Minister of Health, the Honourable Molwyn Joseph has spoken of stiffening the fines for those who flout the measures designed to keep us all safe. We here at NEWSCO have echoed those exhortations. We are not out of the woods by any measure, because in its second coming, Covid-19 has re-emerged as a threat that ought not to be taken lightly. France and Spain recently passed the grim milestone of 1 million cases. It is not a comforting thought.

Of course, to a certain extent, we here in Antigua and Barbuda have been victims of our own success. Because of the relatively low case numbers, and low unchanged death toll (only three, so far), we have become enormously complacent, with the dangerously naive even suggesting that perhaps Covid-19 is not as contagious or deadly as the worldwide health authorities are warning. For example, US President Donald Trump’s mysterious and quick recovery from Covid helped buttress his silly arguments against many of the protocols that clear-eyed heath professionals have been advocating. There can be no denying that the president’s flippant approach to the virus has had awful consequences. Joe Biden, his challenger in the November 3 general election has pointed a finger of blame for as many as 200,000 deaths squarely at him – “Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America, . . . We’re about to go into a dark winter. A dark winter. And he has no clear plan.” [Bloomberg]

Here in our fair State, we have commended the authorities for doing a decent job in keeping the numbers low. Some have argued that the numbers are low because we are not testing enough of the population. Of course, that is an unreasonable and gratuitous observation. It would be unfeasible (quite expensive) to simply go about testing everybody. World health authorities do not recommend it either.

Not surprisingly, others have suggested that our numbers are low serendipitously – pure dumb luck. They cite the seeming whimsy in some of the government’s approaches to keeping us safe. For example, the flip-flop on the number of passengers that commuter buses may carry per trip.

Then there is the question of tracking of persons who are under home quarantine. Even before this month of October, we’d heard talk of tracking apps and bracelets to make sure that those who were supposed to be under home quarantine were not wandering outside of the home confinement boundaries,potentially endangering the general public. There was lots of chatter, but little else. Then more than two weeks ago, we heard by way of the Cabinet notes that, Two experts who have been charged with developing the bracelet tracking devices, provided the Cabinet with a display of the capabilities of the bracelets.They are intended to ensure that those men and women who are placed in quarantine, remain within the perimeters of the home or bio-secure building to which they are assigned, by wearing the devices.” [CABINET NOTES, October 1, 2020]

Of course, one would have reasonably expected that in a matter of days after that meeting, that the bracelets would already be here in our fair State, what with reports of recklessness by those who are supposed to be under quarantine, and our rising numbers. Sigh! It was too much to hope for, as is always the case with this administration, fittingly given the moniker, “The Next-Week Government.” As you can imagine, two more weeks went by since that meeting with the bracelet experts and we are now hearing from the good Minister of Information, the Honourable Melford Nicholas, that the bracelets will be arriving here in a few weeks. Sigh!

             In this governance milieu, sluggishness is a virtue!

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