We are at the penultimate day of 2020 and most of us are anxious to see the back of this year that has turned life upside down, inside out for so many of us.
By now, for the most part, we have determined whether we want to bid adieu with a bang, or with quiet introspection.
New Year’s Eve typically ranks high among celebrations, but like most things this year, we have to think twice.
For while Barbados remains on top of its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and we have new hope with the distribution of vaccines now in the early stages, we simply cannot let our hair down as much as we want to.
Starting today, a new slew of protocols took effect to limit gatherings including parties, pleasure cruises and traditional family outings at the beach on Old Year’s Night to lime and view fireworks.
As announced by Chairman of the Cabinet COVID-19 sub-committee, Senator Dr Jerome Walcott, Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic and Attorney General Dale Marshall, there will be no gatherings exceeding 150, except with the express permission of the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit. Throughout the one-week period, pleasure cruises will now have to seek fresh permission from the unit, which will determine how many persons will be allowed on the vessels for each event.
People desirous of viewing fireworks displays on the beach with family, or dancing the night away at one of many popular street parties, will be under heavy scrutiny from law enforcement officials who have been given the necessary “teeth” to enforce the new directive.
So serious are the new measures, that a joint task force has been established, which includes the Barbados Defence Force, the Royal Barbados Police Force and the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit, tasked with scanning both land and sea.
As expected there has been a ripple of response. Some welcome the measures citing recent photos and videos circulating on social media showing large gatherings with scores unmasked and failing to physically distance.
While others contend the measures are too extreme and will stop a range of entrepreneurs from earning much-needed revenue after a tough year.
Admittedly, the measures will result in fallout for some groups and this is regrettable and authorities should take note to see how legitimate cases can be addressed.
However, we understand this requires more sacrifice in a year already full of it, but to do less may result in grave consequences.
We know that there are some who still engage in reckless behaviour — wearing masks off your noses or under the chin and mingling freely without observing the necessary distance. And worst, there are the conspiracy theorists who maintain it’s a hoax.
One only need to look at the headlines emerging in neighbouring Caribbean countries and more so in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and further afield to appreciate the impact of the deadly pandemic that has claimed 1.8 million lives and infected more than 81 million people.
Surely we all must do better.
And to our welcomed guests, we are happy you are with us. But we implore you to adhere to the protocols and enjoy vacationing safely so Barbados can remain a safe place for its citizens and others like you, who are eager to travel.
We shouldn’t have to resort to drastic action to ensure your safety.
Wear your masks, stay at least six feet apart from others and wash your hands frequently.
Our goal as we welcome the new year over the next few days should be to strike the balance between merrymaking and health so that we can celebrate in a far more social way in 2021.
So here’s to your good health.