Dr. Fraser- Point of View
May 22, 2020

We Really are Special!

I am back on this issue because we really special! Over the past week we saw photos of a large gathering outside the Social Welfare Department with people virtually climbing over each other looking for Poor Relief and seeking any assistance available. This points to the state of our economy, but in this era of Covid-19 it was an appalling scene.

It was disgusting! One understands the circumstances that drew those persons to the Social Welfare Department, but there was a total disregard for their health and that of the nation. Some might have looked at it from a distance and took comfort in the fact that they were not there. But we need to appreciate that any irresponsible action anywhere can affect everyone. The authorities should have realised that this was going to happen and organised it differently, any way to avoid crowds congregating in a small space.

 But the individuals assembled also had the responsibility to safeguard their health and that of others. Did they see it as something only available to those who were able to get there early? Was there an understanding of what was involved health wise? I have always argued that we have an irresponsible element in our society, but I also believe that there is a misunderstanding of what is involved and that there is need for more education about the virus, done in a way that will reach most people. I appreciate that there are many public service announcements asking people to wash their hands etc., but are these fully understood?  I have to admit that there are more people wearing masks in Kingstown than I expected, but something is missing. Some persons wear their masks in the minivans and then go to the banks, credit unions, or to MoneyGram or Western Union where they stand in lines almost hugging each other, while wearing their masks. Isn’t there an understanding that there are many ways in which the virus is spread; that to mask one’s self is not enough? We have been told that the masks are to protect other persons and not necessarily the one wearing the mask, but if in crowded areas everyone wore masks then they will be protecting each other. I was in an area sometime last week when there were two young women talking. One suggested to the other that she seemed to be getting the Flu. Her response, “Yes, I have to pass to the pharmacy to get some medication.”

That incident sent my alarm bell ringing. What if it was more than the Flu? It was said in such a matter of fact manner. I was at a supermarket recently, washed my hands and stood more than six feet from the person ahead of me. Although there was a lot of room, someone came behind me almost touching me. I was about to move away when the security guard beckoned us in. I also heard someone say that he was speaking to a young man whom he saw congregating with others and asked him about physical distancing. His answer was that he had not travelled. The information is not getting out the way it should.

 On Tuesday we got our last Covid-19 update and had another positive case, making it 18. But what alarmed me was that the official release stated that the latest case was that of an “occupant at a home with two known positive Covid-19 cases”. Why was this allowed to happen? It was obviously a case of self-quarantining, but the necessary protocols were not observed. This is dangerous and needs closer monitoring. Other countries are taking these issues seriously. I note a recent case in Barbados where ten persons were charged for breaking the order to remain indoors. While sentencing one of them the Magistrate stated, “I understand things tight, but we all want to live and unless we do it in a systematic way we are exposing each other to this virus… and it will impact the economy further.” A charge of $4,000 to be paid in 16 weeks or one month’s imprisonment!
 We are too lax and have been extremely lucky. We cannot depend on luck. More information/education is necessary and stricter orders issued and enforced and of course, more testing. We have done 175 tests so far. St. Lucia and Grenada have more than 700. One of them, I believe, has now tested more than 1,000. We must wake up!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian