At this time last year, carnival lovers in SVG were smarting over the cancellation of the 2020 Carnival celebrations, but consoled themselves with the dream of “2021”. Some even entertained the illusion of some sort of mini-festival in August.
Education had been severely disrupted and parents and students alike looked forward to the new school year and “2021”.
Sport was badly affected, all over the world. The grand Olympic Games had to be postponed, “to 2021”. Regional cricket tournaments were cancelled or rescheduled and all looked forward to “2021”. The showpiece Indian Premier League (IPL) had to be shifted to the Middle East and upon successful completion, all cricket fans began to salivate over its return to its home base “in 2021”.
Well, 2021 is here, but so are the masks and health protocols too. Travel restrictions are still in force, some even more strict than at this time last year. Schools are closed with big question marks as to when they can be reopened, especially in St Vincent and the Grenadines. There are still question marks over the Olympic Games, and the IPL has had to be postponed in the face of all that is happening in India. Indeed, sport at all levels globally continues to be badly impacted.
The reason for all of this is the deadly COVID pandemic, including new strains and second, third and even fourth waves have been identified. Strains of varieties to match cultural differences have been identified and named “Brazilian strain”, “South African strain”, “UK strain” etc. The world as we knew it is far from the normalcy to which we had become accustomed.
Responses have spanned a wide gamut of regulations from governments, some drastic. These range from rigid travel restrictions as in the case of Australia which has refused the right of its own citizens in India, including cricketers, to return home without incurring a prison sentence. Countries with large COVID outbreaks are being put on banned lists.
Right here in the Caribbean there are a number of “lockdowns”, curfews, or as in the case of Trinidad and Tobago, enforced closure of all retail establishments save those designated as essential which are allowed to remain open up to 8 p.m.
We here in SVG have managed over the past year without extreme measures, appealing to the good sense of our people to follow the stipulated health practices. In spite of calls for a more stringent approach, there have been no drastic measures even after one year.
But we are now in a new, more dangerous situation, with the eruptions of La Soufriere and its impact on social and economic life. Additionally, there appears to be an increase in irresponsible public behaviour with many seemingly abandoning masks now that the air is less dusty, and physical distancing, a thing of the past.
We are in a critical situation and every possible safety measure needs to be employed to keep our country and its people safe without unnecessarily treading on the rights of citizens. It is downright dangerous for instance for persons to be accommodated in emergency shelters and then claiming personal privilege, refuse even to be tested. Are they not endangering fellow citizens and the country as a whole?
It is a touchy question, but we need to revisit and reconsider how far we must pander to those who practise irresponsible behaviour behind the shield of “human rights”. Have the rest of us no “human rights” ?