As we usher in the year 2021 who can help but reflect on 365 in 2020 of the most tumultuous days in living memory.
The best way to chart a proper path forward is to be fully knowledgeable of all the highs and lows along the way. And while it may be easier to point out all that has not gone our way and all that has been taken from us, it is because of those moments of misfortune and despair that we owe it to ourselves to strive for balance by embracing the good as well.
We have been thrust into a global pandemic and the reeling effects of it are ever present. And if Barbadians wanted to put their minds in a bubble and block out the realities of the deadly virus the events that unfolded this day made sure this was not to happen.
We learned that there are 10 positive COVID-19 cases on island, five of which are local in origin and of major concern to health authorities. This has prompted Prime Minister Mottley to place the country on curfew as of tonight until January 14, from midnight each night to 5 a.m.
Yes, COVID-19 is a real and present danger in our midst. Other territories in the Caribbean are facing similar news. In St Vincent all fetes were banned and churches were advised to observe physical distancing or go virtual this New Year’s Eve into the weekend, as health officials there try to trace and contain a cluster of local spread of COVID-19. St Lucia recorded 26 cases yesterday and 13 today; Grenada has 12 new cases last week; Bermuda reported seven new cases today; Jamaica had 20 new cases Tuesday and one person died in Trinidad on Wednesday.
In Barbados, the curfew has snuffed out most of the celebratory events which were planned for Old Year’s Night. There were 65 planned public events, numerous other private parties and even the traditional watch night church services which usually go to midnight or beyond. Even spectators of the fireworks displays won’t be able to view them at midnight.
At this hour in our country, happy spirits have been dampened, even the optimistic wonder of what will be next. Some citizens are feeling that unsettled and uneasy feeling we all felt during the national lockdown earlier this year.
But we must remind ourselves that today is but only one day of the 365 which we have managed to overcome.
Amidst the turmoil, mayhem and trying times of 2020 we have had many moments to be proud of and pleased about. Those are the moments we must hold on to with dear life.
From these tribulations, we have been reminded of who we are and what we can accomplish when we work together. Evidence of this lies in the success of the national Adopt-A-Family programme. Those who themselves were facing hardship rallied around the most vulnerable families and donated to ensure that the economic blow was cushioned.
It is fair to say we displayed more empathy for each other. Indeed, none of us can take for granted the job of the supermarket worker, gas station attendant, domestic worker, firefighter, police officer, healthcare professional and the dock worker. We have become more sensitive of each other and the varying roles we all play in the daily success of our country.
During this time too, some basic services which have proven to be extremely challenging to perform all became a bit easier. More people have moved to paying their bills online. The bothersome, lengthy wait for the Police Certificate of Character is no more. Driver’s licences can be delivered through an arrangement with the Post Office.
As it relates to our educational system, the challenges faced are unprecedented, too. But, the advent of online learning is an important turning point for the ministry. And while some may still be without devices, the majority of our island’s school children now own some sort of electronic means of aid with their learning.
Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw said earlier this week that the ministry had many positive to takeaways from using the blended approach to instruction. It has put focus on the fact that some of our educators need to be brought up to speed on the advantages of using the technology.
Most of us have used Zoom, Google Meet and other platforms which have become extremely useful.
With technology, the notion of working from home has now been accepted and embraced by employers who one frowned upon it. In order for continuity and productivity, many were forced to implement a Work-from-home policy which has been welcomed by employees.
In the public sector for the first time, there was the introduction of the Flexible Work Arrangement policy by Government. This policy allowed for the options of staggered working hours, working from home, and compressed working hours. The historic move was welcomed by the National Union Of Public Workers who said they were agitating for the policy for many years.
Another union win came from the recent labour unrest. The highly-publicised and lengthy industrial action by G4S security guards came to a head. And in the end, the PM announced the introduction of a National Minimum Wage Policy across the board. The Barbados Workers Union claimed it as a victory given that they were demanding it for years.
And while the hotel workers protests were seen to be a humbug by some, the workers, for the most part, got what was due to them.
There are so many other positives and lessons that can be highlighted from the negatives of the past year. Unfortunately, space will not allow us to touch on all. But as our Prime Minister said today there are lessons to be learnt from 2020.
We believe that there are some good things from 2020 that should be taken into 2021. The only way to arm ourselves for the uncertainties of the future is to draw on the knowledge of the past.
A blessed, happy, healthy and safe 2021 to all!