By Health Editor Kadeem Joseph
How did we get here? Compared to 2020, the state of Antigua and Barbuda’s fight against Covid-19 leaves much to be desired.
It is nearly incomprehensible, shocking perhaps, that in two months we have almost doubled our laboratory confirmed cases of the dreaded SARS-CoV-2.
For perspective, at the close of 2020, after 10 months of battling the pandemic, the country had recorded 159 cases of the virus based on the Ministry of Health’s dashboard for December 31, 2020.
In stark contrast, we have recorded 157 cases of Covid-19 in less than two months.
So, again, how did we get here?
To date, the reasons have been vast, including claims by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) that regional governments relaxed enforcement of Covid-19 protocols during the holiday season, the complacency of residents, Covid fatigue, returning nationals ignoring quarantine requirements, and the list goes on.
While debates continue to wage and fingers continue to be pointed in all directions, consider that maybe all of the above may be true.
Remember that as the country, moreover the entire world, approached the holiday season, the alarms were blaring as healthcare professionals warned of the possible fallout of increased travel during this period.
At the start of our fight against this deadly virus, with our first case recorded on March 13, 2020, many were scared, anxious and overwhelmed by the ever-changing guidelines and the threat of the virus, and more importantly most of our nationals were compliant.
Masks of all colours and designs were visible and worn correctly in large part, there were also security personnel stationed at every business place ensuring that individuals washed their hands or sanitised upon entry, thus reducing the risk of contracting the virus while speaking with someone or by touching contaminated surfaces.
However, today, many residents have seemingly thrown much of 2020’s caution to the wind. In recent times, individuals are frequenting stores, supermarkets, and the like without batting an eyelid at sanitisation or wash stations, masks on their chins or below their noses and completely ignoring social distancing queue marks leading to cashiers.
Over Christmas and the New Year period, approximately 1,200 nationals returned to Antigua and Barbuda, and the evidence supports the fact that many of them blatantly violated quarantine.
One such individual was convicted and fined $10,000 for the breach.
Even more concerning, last week, officials put on record the abuse of a loophole in the country’s surveillance system, where visiting citizens booked stays at bed and breakfasts only to stay with family instead.
This is gravely worrying, not only because it exposes gaps in our surveillance system but also shows that individuals placed their loved ones at direct risk of catching the virus and potentially dying from it.
It brings into sharp focus many lapses, a failure to check in on individuals who should be quarantined at specified locations, a lack of synergy between health officials and law enforcement but most importantly it is a major blemish on personal responsibility that we should not soon forget.
So, how did we get here? We all dropped the ball.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented economic and health care challenge, the fight against the spread of the virus is not a sprint but a marathon – and we all must be on board for the long haul.
Based on the nature of the virus, including its ease of transmission, it only takes one individual to cripple Antigua and Barbuda’s health care system and ultimately our economy.
Lest we forget, much of the trepidation at the beginning of this pandemic was based on the fear that the novel coronavirus adversely affects individuals with pre-existing conditions more severely.
With many of our citizens suffering from non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension, we cannot afford to get weary.
The recent spike in cases should be a wake-up call to all to ‘gird your loins and join the battle’ against this virus, for the sake of those we know and love.
To date, Antigua and Barbuda has recorded 316 cases of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the Covid-19 disease. There are 28 people hospitalised of the current 120 active cases on island.
Additionally, the number of non-imported cases has shot past that of the imported cases at 190 compared to 120.
We should be concerned, alarmed even, but more importantly, as suggested by PAHO, surveillance and educational campaigns should be boosted as we resurrect our personal responsibility and work diligently to reduce the incidence of this deadly disease in our fair Antigua and Barbuda.
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