As we prepare to say farewell to 2020, a year which, to borrow from the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, “will live in infamy”, we cannot help but express concern at the increase in lawlessness, including two murders within the space of just two days, and reports of visitors to the island and their relatives who reside here breaching protocols intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
So far, our murder rate for 2020 has not exceeded 2019’s unprecedented 49 slayings, but the just over 40 killings so far does bring certain matters into sharp focus based on their brazen nature. In January, a young man was murdered right in front of his six-year-old son as he dropped him off at school one morning, and just yesterday, two masked men – no doubt wearing the masks owing to COVID-19 rules, but also to disguise their dastardly intentions – shot and killed 47-year-old Adrian Noel Gibson during an attempted robbery.
According to reports, one resident told the media that the hardworking mechanic managed to get the words out before dying on his way for medical attention.
“He told me them did mask up and them come to rob he. He passed away on the way to the hospital. We were there trying to help him. At first, he tell me he get shoot in his hip, but I didn’t know he get shoot in the back too, because I would have snatch he up and carry he to the hospital,” the resident said.
Today, we have had yet another killing, this time in White Hill, St. Andrew, where Sham Elijah Alleyne, 20, was stabbed to death.
We know that 2020 has been hard for many people owing to the pandemic, although the crimes at the start of the year occurred long before the coronavirus hit our shores. But reports from all around the world have noted an increase in domestic violence and child abuse cases, including some of our Caribbean neighbours.
Many people have lost their jobs or ended up working fewer days on reduced pay, which of course has made it harder to meet their daily and monthly expenses. Nevertheless, that is no excuse for anyone to take by force that which their fellow man would have worked hard to accumulate to help their own families.
On another matter, we note the incidents of visitors to the island, and associates of those visitors, violating the quarantine procedures that the former are supposed to follow once they land here. These violations have caused the Government to institute a series of measures over the coming week, starting tomorrow, which if adhered to will ideally prevent us from having to deal with community spread, by far the biggest danger associated with COVID-19.
Once again, another aspect of the pandemic and the lockdown periods would have been cabin fever. It was bad enough for us in the months between April and June this year, but it might have been even tougher for those from the metropolitan countries from which we source most of our visitors. They would have seen thousands of cases and deaths, including people near and dear to them, would have endured several lockdowns, and in some cases, their countries are now experiencing a second wave of the illness which has forced them back into regional lockdowns again. So it is possible that they believed a Caribbean getaway to a place where there were not many cases would give them a chance to exhale.
Despite this, we are somewhat alarmed at the incidents reported by Minister of Health Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic, and head of the Cabinet COVID-19 sub-committee, Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Dr Jerome Walcott, a medical doctor and former minister of health. During a press briefing, Senator Walcott condemned the blatant disregard of quarantine stipulations and noted that in some cases, even Barbadians have been attempting to meet with quarantining relatives to collect items brought in from overseas.
To assist with enforcement, the health minister announced that the new extension of the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit would also include officers from the army and police.
“This matter of persons who are on quarantine going to the front desk and calling taxis and leaving, that has to stop,” he declared. “The rapid response unit must come into force to stop those persons when they attempt to do that.”
We agree. In their home countries, we are certain that they would face the full weight of the law if they attempted to pull such stunts, and as for Barbadians attempting to meet with people in quarantine, we are sure that whatever goodies their associates brought in from “over in away” can stay in a suitcase, refrigerator or wardrobe till the end of the quarantine period.
So, as we prepare to ring out the old and no doubt say good riddance to 2020, let us proceed with caution in everything we do, not only in terms of adhering to the COVID-19 protocols, but let us also keep our tempers in check.