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To protest or to protect? The pros

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The Caribbean is not immune from the onslaught of the Covid -19 virus which continues to create so much havoc and damage to life and limb over the world. We are nearing two years since the virus first struck and the death toll rapidly approaches 5 million worldwide, with multiple times that the number of casualties. Hospitals and health services have become overwhelmed, in large countries as in small ones and rich and poor alike are affected.

To make matters worse, not only is the virus and its effects not abating, it is mutating and the new variants, such as the Delta and gamma strains, are proving to be even more virulent. The new strains have hit the Caribbean hard and all around us there are reports of swelling numbers of hospitalizations, overcrowded hospitals and health centres and a shortage of both beds and health personnel.

The statistics, for the Caribbean in general, and our immediate environment are frightening. What is even more alarming is that there has been a huge spike in recent weeks right in our neighbourhood, and the figures in our own country this week are beginning to reflect that spike. For some time now our COVID death toll remained at 12, lucky us!

But the sudden death of a victim and contact tracing roping in worrying numbers have caused us to sit up at least.

Each of our closest neighbours, Grenada and Trinidad to the south, Barbados to the east and St. Lucia, the “French” islands and Dominica to the north, are feeling the effects of the COVID rampage. Even those who have not yet caught the virus are affected because it is straining the health services and affecting the normal delivery of health services.

It has become so much more threatening that the Regional Director of PAHO, Dr. Carissa Etienne has made an urgent appeal to the thousands still unvaccinated, warning them that they are “playing with fire” and risking hospitalizations and deaths that could stall the region’s economic recovery.

Without vaccination, she explained, “the population remains forever at risk, even with the wearing of masks”. Her warning was corroborated by Grenada’s Chief Medical Officer who sounded the grim alarm that half of Grenada could get COVId in the next two weeks!

It would seem to any right-thinking person that the situation warrants national consensus about giving priority in such a critical situation to protecting the health of our people. That is a responsibility which should be shared by all of us, collectively. Whether we are Government, Opposition, Civil Society or us, ordinary folk, it is in our common interest to work together to try and combat and eventually eradicate this scourge among us.

We need to subscribe to a joint programme of action to, among other objectives, promote public health and safety. That is our only route towards progress.

It is important for our leaders to, in such circumstances, project a constant sense of professionalism in all they do, each giving in proportion to his/her responsibilities. This demands profound reflection on what the pandemic has done not only to our health as a nation but also its far-reaching effects on economic and social life.

For those of us with differing views, please propose a solution.

Thus, we have to remember that there are among us, persons with the propensity for displaying ignorant behaviour and for profanity. We need a protracted effort to educate such persons, to channel their efforts in a positive direction so that there would be no need for those with responsibility for law and order to have to resort to prohibitive measures.

In the context of the current situation, we all are losers, expending our efforts in either promoting civil disorder or trying to proscribe such activities.

However there are, among us, some who profess to be leaders but their very actions lead in the opposite direction to where we should be aiming. They continue to ignore the real problems of the society, encourage procrastination where there is hesitancy and doubts about vaccination.

Some even go further and rather than propose solutions, encourage profuse exhibitions of disorderly behaviour, engaging in propaganda aimed at creating disaffection among our people and provoking acts of public disorder. It is therefore no wonder that some of those misled found themselves propelling missiles which not only disrupt peace and order but actually caused physical damage to the Prime Minister but even more profound damage to the image of our peace-loving country.

That is what misunderstanding and protracted displays of ignorance can bring when it is enlightenment, solidarity, and an urgent sense of common purpose that are required.

People are protesting for all sorts of things at a time when they should be giving their support to the campaign to beat back Covid, showing that they are pro (in favour of) testing to determine levels of the virus in our society.

This is no time for negativity. Each news bulletin, whether it be from Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Cuba or the USA, gives the same message.

The pros which should be our guidelines are : PROTECT our people.

PROMOTE health and well-being.

PROCLAIM national unity for Progress and Prosperity.

● Renwick Rose is a community activist and social comm entator.

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