One of my difficulties is having to write my column on Wednesday, so that by the time it is available to readers of Searchlight on Friday and those who view it on Facebook on Sunday, in these challenging and fast moving times, much would have changed.
Since the Soufriere had calmed its anger, the Covid-19 pandemic and issues related to it have dominated the country’s conversation. I had over the past months been drawing attention to the alarming situation developing in our neighbouring countries of Grenada and St. Lucia and warned that we needed to put our house in order. Things have now caught up with us. We started September with seven new positive cases; by the 19th we had reached 63 and then the shock of it all, a report of September 21 that we had reached 119. I shudder to think what tonight’s number might be, more so when I hear reports of government departments, statutory boards and agencies being closed. As I write I see a report of the closure of the Community College. Although most of the reports did not list the pandemic as the reason one is left to jump to such a conclusion.
We do not believe in lockdowns. In fact, a couple weeks ago we had two holidays on Monday and Tuesday, reportedly a payback for having lost our Carnival Days in July. This made little sense to me, other than to facilitate parties, picnics, and other gatherings. Recent unofficial reports are of 52 positive cases in Canouan, with 18 being students. Union Island had 12. Now these are small communities where people are closely knit. What is alarming for me is the number of students! I say alarming because we are at a point of preparing for the opening of schools, although as I write no firm statement has been made about the form that would take. If it is going to be face to face parents need to know in time to get the necessities for their children. If online, we have already been told that many if not most of the tablets given to students last year have been ‘broken’. And of course, the internet services in some areas leave much to be desired. I am not sure how developed is the on-line teaching. I suspect it will vary widely depending on the teachers level of training in that area and of the state of the technology. How do we safeguard the students?
I suspect that with the increasing number of positive covid cases and at least five recent deaths persons would have been motivated or forced or frightened into being vaccinated, but I am not sure that the increase is as significant as we would want them to be. What continues to stand out is the misinformation that prevails, some of it deliberately so. Persons do not listen carefully to information provided and read what they want into anything that is said. Some of it is obviously politically flavoured. I heard someone in response to a statement made by Dr Friday, state something to the effect that “isn’t he the one who was telling people not to take the vaccine?” As far as I am aware his position is against mandatory vaccinations; that he had taken his vaccine early and urged people to do so. A recent view is that the number of positive covid-19 cases had been magnified to force people to take the vaccine. And then there are those who claim that the covid epidemic is not a real issue! Really!
I am still of the view that what is missing in our attempt to deal with the pandemic is adequate education. Having studied Social Development and participated in many community sessions as a facilitator and been involved in popular education, I am of the view that that approach in the situation in which we find ourselves is absolutely necessary. Many persons still lack the information and have questions and concerns that need to be answered. Is the Ministry of Social Development not able to structure a programme to handle this?
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian