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It is becoming increasingly clear that Covid-19 is still a grave and present danger that could be with us for a while yet. Notwithstanding some of the border openings and other relaxations around the world, this evil that is Covid-19 is still thriving. For example, Jamaica passed the grim milestone of 1000 cases a few days ago, and with 16 reported this past Tuesday, their tally is now 1,047. The number of recoveries is 753, with 219 active cases.

Similarly, The Bahamas crossed the 1000 milestone recently. In fact, rather than a flattening curve, The Bahamas saw an alarming increase in cases. This prompted the government to revert to a complete shut down of the islands. In Trinidad, with only (relatively speaking, taking into consideration the size of its population), 326 cases and 8 deaths, there was a disturbing spike (54 cases) between August 8th and 10th. Guyana has 623 cases with 22 deaths, and again, there has been a big increase in the number of cases over the last few days.

Further afield in New Zealand, the administration of Jacinda Ardern is scrambling its response to a rash of cases (10), after three months of no cases. From Argentina, where cases continue to surge despite a government lockdown, to a number of countries in Europe (countries that thought that the worst was over) Covid-19 is once again rearing its ugly head.

Clearly, there is cause for concern. The Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of its health emergencies programme, have been urging caution even amidst the need to relax restrictions and re-open borders. According to the latter, “The decisions about travel restrictions are difficult [as there is no] one size fits all. It’s going to be almost impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future. Economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume. We do believe that it is possible to identify and minimise the risk associated with international travel.” [Sarah Newey, THE TELEGRAPH, July 27, 2020]

Interestingly, even in terms of intimacy, health authorities are urging caution, and er . . restraint. Perhaps even abstinence. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), citing the Terrence Higgins Trust: You’ve heard of the “new normal” around things like going back to work or shopping. But it also applies to sex, according to a sexual health charity. The Terrence Higgins Trust has published advice suggesting [that during sexual intercourse] people avoid kissing, wear a face covering and choose positions that aren’t face-to-face. It may sound tough, but people need to find a way to balance our need for sex and intimacy with the risks of the spread of Covid-19,” the Trust says. The best sexual partner during the pandemic is yourself or someone you live with. Masturbation, using sex toys or participating in phone or online sex are recommended as the safest options. That’s not to say sex is off the table, but it should ideally be with people who are part of your household. We should still be socially distancing, but after months of lockdown it is unrealistic to expect people to stop having sex indefinitely. If you are having sex with people outside of your household, it’s important to limit the number of partners. Like with everything at the moment, be aware of any Covid-19 symptoms you or your partner might have – and isolate if you have them.”And yes, folks, as difficult as it might be for some of us, we ought to abstain from cunnilingus and fellatio for now. Covid-19 has brought an end to the world, and our way of living and loving and laughing, as we once did.

We here at NEWSCO hate sounding like a broken record, but the warnings bear repeating. Covid-19 is no joke. Our health and well-being ought not to be trifled with. We see folks traipsing around St. John’s and our neighbourhoods with no masks, or masks covering only their mouths. The masks ought to cover the mouths and noses. The social distancing regulations in supermarkets and other business places ought to be strictly enforced. As should the requirement that hands be washed or sprayed with sanitiser before entry into an establishment. We also believe that hugs, handshakes and other intimate forms of greeting should also be forsworn until we get this darned thing beaten. Let’s go back to a nod or a gentle touching of the elbows. And while exercise is of critical importance, we believe that we are seeing too much physical contact on our playgrounds. It is a conundrum.

Actually, we applaud the administration for returning to a policy mandating a reduction in physical contact on commuter buses. It was indeed the craziest thing – the previous head-scratching decision to allow those buses to carry their maximum capacity of passengers without social distancing. This was obviously to silence bus drivers who were loudly complaining that they weren’t making any money. They were crying out for a subsidy to make up for the loss in revenue. But commuters and other Antiguans and Barbudans raised a hue and cry over the reckless policy –  a recipe for disaster, and Cabinet, in its July 31, 2020 meeting, reversed it. According to the Cabinet notes from that meeting, “[Bus drivers] will receive a gasoline subsidy to compensate in part for the reduction.”

Meanwhile, we have heard that the administration has streamlined its efforts at the V. C. Bird Airport, and Minister Melford Nicholas, after a fact-finding tour there on Saturday 8th, has assured the nation that all systems are working satisfactorily. He further assured that locals and visitors are being treated equally. Remember, there had been some anecdotal grumblings that the airport policies and procedures were not being applied even-handedly, and that things seemed to be in disarray. Nicholas has assured us that all’s well on the airport front. As it ought to be. The airport could be our Covid-19 Achilles heel if ‘things fall apart’ up there. Heaven forbid! (As of July 31, four of the last five imported cases were returning nationals.)

We certainly wish the administration well in its continuing efforts to keep us safe, and we the citizens must play our part. Cooperation with, and adherence to the protocols, is key. We must help the fat lady sing.

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