Life is about balance. There is a need for the right amount of recreation when working hard. There is a need to have those outlets that take you away from the harsh realities of life’s struggles. That is why many people have been so vocal about things like access to beaches and parks, the reopening of gyms and cinemas, the shop limes, karaoke and yes, bus crawls.
Some argue that in order to maintain their sanity these activities are very much needed. Well, this may very well be true, especially during a trying and mentally taxing time such as a pandemic. A pandemic that has completely altered the way we socialise as a people. And Bajans are nothing if not friendly and sociable.
For that reason and more, we welcome the news of a new-look Crop Over. Barbados TODAY reported that Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for Culture John King said that Bajans can expect a very different Crop Over festival than the one to which they’ve grown accustomed.
King said: “I will be able to give a full statement on what it’s going to look like, how it is going to be done and all of that. But we are really looking at extending the Season of Emancipation. There will be events and different things but not in the form that people are accustomed to.”
Heartening to know is that the minister assured that the new-look Crop Over will be in keeping with the COVID-19 protocols. He also pointed out that while the vaccination programme is in progress, it does not guarantee that the virus will not be spread.
A few months ago, Minister King had indicated there were still possibilities for a Crop Over given the then-pending roll out of a vaccination programme. It is pleasing to hear him say now that even with such a programme there are no guarantees.
When this new-look Crop Over comes around this is the message that has to be pushed. There are entertainers, DJs, radio announcers and many in the cultural sector who have been pushing the agenda that if the vaccine is taken “we can all get back outside”.
This is reckless.
That is why even as we welcome the new-look Crop Over and appreciate the need for it as people continually grow COVID weary, we cannot allow party-craving Bajans to let their guards down and throw us in a tailspin.
This is also the perfect opportunity for the producers of the festival to reiterate that this culture and heritage showcase is much more than six weeks of fetes.
Prime Minister Mottley has repeatedly said that life is much more than one lime, one party or one fete. That kind of messaging must remain.
Those in authority must create and repeat the fact that even if we get to zero COVID-19 cases between now and the start of this re-vamped festival, that just one case making its way into the wrong setting would see us battling a third wave of the virus.
This notion that the vaccine provides some sort of supernatural protection against contracting and spreading the virus has to be dispelled. The reality is, whether there are 300 cases or one case, the likelihood of spread remains at 100 per cent.
Prior to this second wave and community spread we are still now wading through, there were a lot of social activities and fetes. Some of which would have contributed to the spread of the virus and the number of positive cases recorded. Therefore, we can ill afford to make the same mistake twice. We must learn from what was, as we go forward.
Indeed, over the past weekend, two great entertainment events reminded us of what can be staged at a time like this. Nicholas Brancker’s Uplift concert and the Gospel Monday – the Worship Experience, showed us how people could be entertained and have an enjoyable time in a safe way.
There is a need to balance life but doing so in a safe environment is paramount especially at this time.
We also have to keep an eye on the restart of face-to-face classes as well. Schools start next week. The positivity rate is not where the Ministry of Health wants it to be.
There is also another variable at play.
Based on what the Prime Minister told the nation Thursday evening during her press conference, Government is gearing up to reopen fully to tourists.
Tourism numbers may very well increase in the summertime. Some may come to take in the festival no matter what form it takes. Some who are COVID weary in their homeland may want a getaway. That is why we must be extra vigilant.
Yes, COVID-19 will be with us for a while. Therefore, we have to find ways to cope. We have to learn how to live in this “new normal” very aware that each time another wave comes it sets us back. It sets us back emotionally, mentally and financially.
While we have all faith that the Ministry of Culture and the National Cultural Foundation will craft safe, enjoyable events for the festival, special attention must be paid to private events that may be allowed.
We hope that all necessary precautions, including adequate COVID monitors will be deployed to ensure full enforcement and adherence to the COVID protocols that will be set out at that time.
Indeed, we are happy that Bajans will get a chance to enjoy our island’s largest national festival in some form or fashion. However, for as long as this pandemic is with us, health and safety must remain paramount.