Well, folks, here we go again. Seems, this coronavirus demon is again rearing its ugly head, much like devil-grass. With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant to a number of countries around the world, as well as rising infection numbers, in what many have called ‘a fourth wave,’ we sensed that it would be only a matter of time before we too would be stricken. And boy, have we been? The last two dashboards reveal total infections in excess of four hundred – 203 on the dashboard dated January 4, and 229 on the dashboard dated January 6. This is certainly not good news.
To be sure, we expected a small spike in the aftermath of the Christmas holidays, what with the lifting of the State of Emergency (SOE) and the euphoria that went with it. For example, on Christmas Eve, there were hundreds of citizens flocking into St John’s, milling about and . . . uh. . . cavorting in an unbridled display of emotional release. Covid protocols were not much in evidence, and the joy of the Yuletide season, as well as the new freedom, was manifest. It was a cathartic moment.
But alas! Just yesterday, it was confirmed by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) that the Omicron variant has reached our shores. No surprise there. Remember, we now live in a global village. We are not an island, “entire of itself.” [Donne]. Ours is a world where there is an “interrelatedness of all communities and states,” tied together in an “inescapable network of mutuality,”in a “single garment of destiny.” (Dr Martin Luther King Jr]. Our borders are wide open, and it stood to reason that it would only be a matter of time before Omicron’s arrival here.
Clearly, we must redouble our efforts to put a lid on this most recent uptick in the Covid numbers. We believe that personal responsibility is paramount. We’re talking about practicing the good social distancing, wearing the masks, frequently washing our hands, boosting our immune systems, exercising regularly, gargling and refraining from touching our faces, and of course, getting vaccinated. A pox on those who continue to spread anti-vaccine propaganda and misinformation. The protocols that have been laid down have served us well in the past, and we ought to continue abiding by them. There simply is no other way in this existential battle.
It is with some consternation that we note that many countries in Europe have returned to another lockdown, and cities such as Delhi and Mumbai in India have seen a six-fold increase in cases, fueled largely by Omicron. In the United States, many hospitals are reporting record infection numbers. It is not a pretty picture.
Our senior reporter, Shermain Bique-Charles, wrote earlier this week that, “In response to ongoing Covid-19 concerns, Air Canada said over the weekend that it was temporarily suspending flights to Mexican and Caribbean destinations for 90 days, as of January 31. The decision, taken in collaboration with the Government of Canada, is designed to achieve an orderly reduction in service and minimise customer impact, according to the airline. ‘I think that Canada has been one of those countries that has been exceptionally cautious. They can do more in terms of locking down because they have other means of income, but the rest of us are not as fortunate and are more dependent on tourism,’ Charles Max Fernandez told Observer.” [OBSERVER, January 4, 2022].
And according to our DAILY OBSERVER dated January 6, 2022, “Many resorts across Antigua and Barbuda are seeing cancellations which have affected December occupancy and now, January and February bookings. This trend, the Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association predicts, will continue until Covid-19 cases are controlled in the key source markets of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. These cancellations are being forced by potential visitors exhibiting some hesitancy for immediate travel . . .”
Noteworthily, a section of the Immigration Department here in our fair State has taken a pause in its delivery of services on account of the coronavirus, as have a number of small schools. For example, the Antigua and Barbuda International Institute of Technology has had to close for two days in order to facilitate a widespread sanitising effort. Indeed, on a regular basis, we are getting news of infections here, there and everywhere.
Consider the case of our Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Labour who, earlier this week, reported that he and a number of his family members had contracted the virus after a Christmas family dinner. Said the AG, “One of my kids [was] coughing; we thought it was just a cough, but the next morning we got a complaint of pain, and we got a test done . . . It is so very easy to get infected…. Please go and get vaccinated. Once you’re vaccinated, you’re well protected…” Clearly, this coronavirus is no respecter of persons. May we pay the more earnest heed.
And so it goes. Just when we thought that it was safe to venture back into the water, so to speak, all hell is once again breaking loose. The coronavirus is still tormenting a world weary of illness and death hanging over our heads, much like the ‘Sword of Damocles.’
Of course, we ought not to yield to depression and despair. There is hope yet, never mind the disturbing international coronavirus situation, and the local post-holiday infection spike, but we must not let our guards down. As one thinker, Jimmy Wales, once said, “While I’m optimistic about the direction the world is headed, generally, I think there is a need for constant vigilance. . . “ Indeed!
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