Social distancing and virtual greetings

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Increasingly, it is beginning to look like this novel coronavirus pandemic will be with us for a while yet, and ‘social distancing’ will be one of the most effective weapons in the fight against it. In fact, in his address to Parliament yesterday, our Prime Minister, the Honourable Gaston Browne, spoke in terms of COVID-19 being around for a few months hence, and in almost every breath, he spoke of ‘social distancing’ and personal responsibility as imperatives. Indeed, he cited social establishments, and even churches, as some of the places where congregating may have to change or be curtailed.  In Germany, the health authorities are talking about two years before we see the end of the coronavirus. According to Reuters, quoting Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute, it will take about two years for the coronavirus to run its course, and strict social distancing is paramount in preventing enormous numbers of fatalities.

Jennifer Peepas, in a column in VOX, a news and insight newsletter, declares, “Scientists warn that we may need to live with social distancing for a year or more.” They are convinced that, We face a horrible choice: practice social distancing for months or a year, or let hundreds of thousands die. Life in America — and in many countries around the world — is changing drastically. We’re physically distanced from our favourite people, we’re avoiding our favourite public places, and many are financially strained or out of work. The response to COVID-19 is infiltrating every aspect of life, and we’re already longing for it to end. But this fight may not end for months or a year or even more. . . social distancing is the best way to prevent a truly horrific crisis.” Help us, Lord!

   But what is this ‘social distancing’ of which they speak? According to a popular online publication, “Social distancing is the practice of reducing close contact between people to slow the spread of infections or diseases. Social distancing measures include limiting large groups of people coming together, closing buildings and cancelling events.” Here in Antigua and Barbuda, we have already closed schools until 27th March, and all sporting events and leagues have been shut down, at least for now. Big fetes are a no-no, and there is talk of limiting the size of the number of worshippers (some have suggested no more than 50) at church services, even if it means having a few more services per Sunday, or Saturday, as the case may be.

Folks are now being urged to stay indoors, wash hands, avoid touching faces with unwashed hands, cover mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing, sanitise vehicles, boost immunity with increased supplements such as vitamin C, B and zinc, and so on and so forth. Of course, the authorities are urging all Antiguans and Barbudans to refrain from visiting the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre if they are feeling unwell and exhibiting flu-like symptoms. The COVID-19 hotline is up and running, and those folks with concerns or symptoms should call it – 462 6843 or (toll free) 462 2683. Mind you, cell phones must be cleaned frequently since we handle them with unwashed hands, then put them to our faces to make and receive calls.

Manifestly, life as we know it has changed, at least for the foreseeable future. As we are already aware, and as we have already been doing, there is no more shaking of hands and embracing and kissing. We are social and affectionate beings, and we enjoy being in the company of our fellow ‘Dadlians, but that has to be seriously curtailed. So too, the warm displays of affection. Seems, touching elbows, touching feet, air-kissing, a nod, a wink, a bow, an air high-five, a sweet smile, a warm nod of the head, even a butt bump, are now the new modes of greeting. We also believe that skyping, video conferencing, video chats, WhatsApp chats, and the like, will be used with increasing frequency to facilitate workplace gatherings and conferences, as well as romantic liaisons. Think, virtual love! Good grief! Yes, we’re going to be relying more on internet services, and the providers had better rise to the occasion with better internet and data offerings. Businesses that have encouraged workers to work from home will also need speedy and reliable internet service, as will our educators and the school children.

             Our Prime Minister has taken to reassuring the nation with the words, “This too shall pass!” We certainly trust that the passage of this dastardly virus will be sooner rather than later. Folks, we simply have to adjust and abide by the protocols that have been put in place, especially those having to do with social distancing.  Look, even our Managing Director, Algernon ‘Serpent’ Watts has had to adjust and do his own ironing. This, after his ironing lady called on Monday to say that she is working from home for the next two weeks. Our Station Manager, Mr. Dave Lester Payne, is now doing his own cleaning after a similar working-from-home call from his cleaning lady.

We here at NEWSCO are quite pleased that, so far, we have only had one confirmed case of COVID-19. We salute the authorities on the measures taken so far, and urge them to remain vigilant. We also applaud the administration for inviting the leader of the opposition in Parliament, the Honourable Jamale Pringle, the political leader of the United Progressive Party, Mr. Harold Lovell, Barbuda’s Parliamentary Representative, the Honourable Trevor Walker, and the political leader of the Democratic National Alliance, Joanne Massiah, to a special Cabinet meeting yesterday to brainstorm ideas to stymie this COVID-19 beast. We certainly asked God’s special blessings on their deliberations. Of course, we stand ready to assist in the dissemination of good information that will militate against hysteria and fear. In that regard, we are partners, willing soldiers for the greater good.

May God bless all our leaders, and this fair land of Antigua and Barbuda. After all, all arwe is one!

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