Safety first

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We are noticing an appreciable uptick in the arrivals at the Sir V.C. Bird Airport, as well as increased activity among the sailing crowd at English Harbour. St. John’s is again coming to life with visitors. Hotels and guest houses are also seeing a light at the end of the Covid economic downturn tunnel. All well and good! But here’s hoping that that glimmer is not the headlight of an oncoming train. The point is that we have to be exceedingly careful this Christmas season.

We believe that the truncated hours, 8:00 pm for bars, businesses and restaurants on Christmas Eve, are a step in the right direction, never mind the extra dollars that could have been made, were they allowed to remain open until, say, 10:00 pm. Folks, we must be prudent, acting out of an abundance of caution. Covid is a dastardly existential threat as evidenced by the new horror arising in the United Kingdom (UK). Just when we thought that we were seeing the beginning of the end of this global nightmare, what with the rollout of vaccines in the UK and the US, this shape-shifting demon spawn is mutating into another variant of the coronavirus in the south of England. As a result, many of the countries in Europe have curtailed movement to and from the UK, as has Jamaica. We may have to take similar measures as well, and that could be another setback to our reemerging tourism sector. But clearly, on the question of lives or livelihoods, we must come down on the side of lives.

Let us consider the case of what happened in neighbouring Grenada. Up until a little over a week ago, that country had only 45 confirmed cases of Covid-19. Then a batch of 26 new cases linked to a Sandals resort shattered that months-long (since March) period of relative safety. The authorities there have now had to revert to a partial shutdown, institute a robust testing and contact-tracing regime, and limit all gatherings to no more than 10 people. All businesses must close by 10 pm, and bars and restaurants are takeout only. These are somewhat restrictive but necessary measures. And we would do well to take a page from the Grenadians; no point in waiting for a similar outbreak to scramble with new Covid-mitigating protocols.

Of course, the shortened hours at businesses, bars and restaurants are not measures that we believe this administration is taking lightly. The regime is so broke that it would much rather the longer hours of economic activity, say on Christmas Eve. But the health authorities have prevailed, and our exposure will be greatly reduced.

Similarly, even on the matter of holiday family gatherings, there are some murmurings at the reduced numbers allowed (only 10 per gathering). But here again, we believe that the authorities are acting prudently, again preventing clustering and reducing our exposure. Remember, in the United States, this past Thanksgiving, there was talk about limiting the size of family gatherings, greatly curtailing the festivities, and foregoing travel plans. Some even broached the idea of cancelling Thanksgiving altogether. Unfortunately, many Americans scoffed at the notion that Thanksgiving should be downsized, and they went out in their numbers, hither, thither and yon with wild abandon. We are now seeing another record-breaking wave of coronavirus cases in the US. Talk about whistling past a graveyard!

Interestingly, we here in Antigua and Barbuda are not seeing the sort of numbers of coronavirus cases that are showing up elsewhere. For that, we thank the Almighty. He has indeed been gracious and merciful. But let us not now look the Lord’s blessings in the mouth by being willful and wanton. Lives hang in the balance. And we all want to survive Christmas, don’t we?

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