It is one that will long lurk in our worst nightmares. We’re talking about this past week. It began with a surfeit of happy-talk and feel-good nonsense capped by the Minister of Health, the Honourable Molwyn Joseph, declaring victory, and saying that “We are essentially Covid-free.” Less than 48 hours later, that premature declaration was subsumed by the stunning admission that we had 39 new imported cases. It was a dark moment of truth.
Clearly, wishful thinking and asinine talk about throwing two big parties to make up for Carnival, and bestowing a knighthood on the aforementioned Minister of Health for his great handling of the Covid pandemic, was nothing more than escapism from the seriousness of the threat posed by Covid. And quite frankly, it highlighted how bankrupt (in every sense of the word) this administration is in its stewardship. Mind you, the press conference at which the announcement of the 39 new cases was made, will go down as one of the very worst press conferences ever staged in our fair State. The people in whom we had placed so much confidence (at least, some people had) to keep us safe, and be forthright, had let us down badly, and their fumbling, and incoherent and petulant responses to questions, only served to highlight their cluelessness. It was a national embarrassment, and the memory of it is now keeping many of us awake at nights.
In the meantime, the word in many circles, and from officialdom, this week was also quite disturbing. Private planes are coming in to Antigua that we know nothing about. Some people are being tested while some are waltzing through. The contact tracing regime is haphazard and lacking in manpower. Buses can now be full of commuters, but the Prime Minister cannot attend a meeting with police and firefighters, because of social distancing concerns. And don’t talk about the mixed messages on what kind of testing will be conducted, and when we will really be fully conducting our own local testing, as has been Dominica for several weeks. Indeed, the story of the testing is another national embarrassment that would make the three stooges, Curly, Larry and Moe, the poster boys for ineptitude and foolishness, look like rocket scientists.
Interestingly, in much the same way that the follies of that hapless trio made for much laughter, the hijinks of this administration have made it the butt of jokes and much levity all over the Caribbean. From the failure to come up with a stimulus, to the spectacular way in which the ‘holey drawers’ of this vainglorious regime was exposed by one puff from Covid, is the sort of material that stand-up comedians love. Not to mention cartoonists. Seems, our once high and mighty administration has been brought low, and folks all over the Caribbean are laughing. Think schadenfreude.
To be sure, here in good ol’ ‘Dadli, the joke is not funny. None of us are laughing, because our safety and security; our recovery from this crisis; our very lives depend on the competencies of this administration – competencies, mind you, that are in woefully short supply. It is not a comforting thought. And let us not forget the airy way in which they promised, in this very disturbing week, more next week, next week, next week, . . . ad nauseam. So tiresome! Neither ought we to forget the dreadful water situation in this time of Covid when we really need (gasp!) . . . water. This week’s water story was bad.
Then there is the police and firefighter disaffection story. Our men and women in uniform have a litany of grievances, and they are so fed up with the empty promises of the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, the Honourable Steadroy Benjamin, that they are no longer interested in meeting with him. Instead, they have asked for an audience with our Prime Minister, the Honourable Gaston Browne, but he has flipped them the bird, telling them to . . . well, . . . go fix (the crumbling stations) themselves. (There is another ‘f’ word that could replace the word ‘fix’, but this is a ‘deestant’family paper).
What a week! Meetings at the Police Recreation Grounds. Pickets at the Prime Minister’s office. And the most damning press conference of all time. Many Antiguans and Barbudans are still wondering why that press conference decided to go haywire just when our very own Managing Editor, Gemma Handy, began posing her probing questions to Larry, Curly and Moe. (Chuckle). It was a sight to see information people getting up and walking away from the microphones. Others, pounding on the table a la Kruschev. And still others, pretending “not to speaky engly.” Get your story right, information folks, and stick to it.
The sad thing is that nobody is listening. They have spoken out of so many sides of their mouths, they have blown so much smoke, that the people have become jaded. Many simply sigh and say, “Whatever!” Even the card-carrying Labour Party faithful. What a thing! A crisis of confidence, brought about by the inordinate haste to reopen and relax restrictions. For obvious reasons.
Of course, the nervousness of our people is not without some justification. Consider how Beijing had to re-impose restrictions after a fresh Covid outbreak in that capital city. And just yesterday, Reuters reported that America saw its largest one-day number of cases ever. Not to mention the report that the number of cases in the United States could be 10 times higher than the official data suggests. Texas and Florida (our US arrivals are originating from Florida) have re-imposed a number of restrictions, Portugal is bringing back some of its lockdown measures, and Montenegro, the first country in Europe to declare itself Covid-free, barely a month ago, is now shutting down again. Montenegro had made the early declaration of victory over Covid, putting ‘livelihoods over lives’ because of its significant dependence on the Adriatic tourist industry. Hmmmm!
Clearly, there are lessons to be learned from all of these locales, and we must be guided accordingly. Of course, we trust that those 39 cases here in our State are an aberration. We also pray that they will not result in any community spread. We hope and pray. We also trust that the authorities will not blabber about being Covid-free when there are a number of test results pending. Makes no sense.
Folks, we are not out of the woods by any stretch, and we must proceed gingerly. After all, we really don’t need another week like this one. In the meantime, pass the Dramamine!
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