Over the last year, Barbados has been on the backfoot against challenges at every turn. The most unwelcomed of these challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic, claimed another Barbadian life, the 45th, while sickening 3,884 people to date.
Before COVID-19, the battle was already joined on the economic front. The virus has imperilled our health but it has also virtually severed the lifeblood of our economy, drying up foreign exchange, triggering massive job losses, cramping business activity, upending life.
The combat is far from over and hardly can we take any more foes.
But alas they ever lurk.
Over the last four days, the scourge of gun violence shattered any thought that senseless shootings were themselves on lockdown.
On May Day, one of the holidays declared under the ninth COVID Emergency Management Directive for Barbadians to remain indoors unless they were engaging in a specified activity, four people were shot in three separate incidents, all in St Michael in the space of a half-hour.
The victims: a 54-year-old woman, a 56-year-old man, a 22-year-old male and another man whose age has not been revealed by police.
But the shooting didn’t stop there, On Monday morning at Gall Hill, Christ Church a resident related that their morning devotion was rudely interrupted by gunfire. A young man was injured.
Later that evening, in the same parish, assailants attacked a group liming between Blocks 1 and 2 Silver Hill Drive, Christ Church, injuring four people just after 9 o’clock
Nine too many were injured by this reckless disrespect for life
We are not naïve to think that with quarantines, lockdowns and curfews, crime would simply vanish, but we are not prepared to accept this outrageous trend.
While every senseless act cannot be prevented – and we have trust, backed by evidence, that the hardworking rank and file of the Royal Barbados Police Force are working around the clock to crack these crimes – little has been forthcoming about the current state of crime from the Commissioner of Police.
Barbadians deserve as much reassurance as they do service and protection in the light of the events.
Some suggest that the pandemic has exacerbated social problems that feed deviant behaviour – the lack of jobs and other opportunities, not enough access to mental health care and other services and, now, physical distancing and isolation, that help to trigger conflicts.
This impact cannot be ignored and it’s a reminder that our sociologists and mental health experts have a critical role to play in helping our society to cope with the increasing pressures of this pandemic.
But right away we must get a handle on this spate of shootings.
Mercifully none of the victims perished but these acts have only served fear and trauma for them, their families, friends and neighbours at an already challenging time.
Worse yet, it has led to an additional, unnecessary burden on a health care system that is already at breaking point trying to combat the novel coronavirus. COVID patients and shooting victims shouldn’t have to compete for essential services
Frontline workers are still required to treat and care for diabetics, cancer patients, stroke and heart attack sufferers, newborns and many more.
Law enforcement is as equally important as health care to ensure we are all protected.
As we gradually re-open and return to some normalcy, strict maintenance of public order is most essential and not just for police.
Barbados simply can’t afford a third front – a theatre of war in which coronavirus infections and economic recovery are joined by a proliferation of small arms and even more bloodletting.