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#BTEditorial – A season of anxiety

by Barbados Today
5 min read

There is an increasing feeling of unease in the Barbadian community as COVID-19 infection numbers and deaths continue to rise. And while there is a great deal of referencing to “learning to live with COVID” it is not as simple as the slogan suggests.

The disruption to life and livelihoods, the multiple fatalities, the impact on the population’s mental health, the economic destabilisation that it has caused, have all coalesced to present a most gloomy picture as we enter the holiday season.

Barbadians enjoy this time of the year and look forward with great anticipation to the festive season. It is a time for shopping, acquiring new items for the home, gift giving, and of course, welcoming home friends and family from overseas.

But this year, there is great deal of nervousness and anxiety. And one can empathise with those who are wondering whether the exhilaration of the season will be abruptly halted by the spread of the viral disease, as occurred last year.

As we closed out 2020, the country began to let its guard down. The curfew was lifted, COVID infection numbers had fallen, deaths were few and far between, and earlier we were delighting in news that we were “COVID-free”.

The celebration, though, was short-lived. New Year’s Eve parties were cancelled at the last hour and disappointment reigned. The famous “bus crawl” was labelled a “super spreader”, while others pointed accusing fingers at the wealthy West Coast residents and their guests who held their swanky parties and broke all the COVID protocols.

As we approach the end of 2021 and prepare for 2022, the spectre of death is a constant reminder that this disease must be managed on several fronts.

Vrijesh Tripathi of the University of the West Indies, St Augustine and Debjyoti Talukdar, two regional researchers shared their research on the COVID-19 situation in the region.

They outlined that based on their data, out of the 13 Caribbean countries, the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 were seen in the Dominican Republic, followed by Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad, and Tobago, The Bahamas, Barbados, Antigua, and Barbuda, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, in this order.

Similarly, Caribbean countries with the highest number of death cases reported were the Dominican Republic, followed by Cuba, Haiti, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, in this order. The highest number of recovered patients were from the Dominican Republic, followed by Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, The Bahamas, Haiti, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, in this order.

As they outlined, “The outbreak of COVID-19 is a grave concern in the Caribbean region.” We agree with the regional researchers. And despite our fervent desire to “get back to normal”, a state of normalcy cannot exist simultaneously with a viral outbreak that is causing daily multiple deaths.

A medical expert who preferred anonymity, wrote of the Barbados situation stating, “It would seem unethical to simply allow uncontrolled, widespread COVID-19 in the country hoping this will lead to a high rate of population immunity.

“This will inevitably result in a large number of people becoming severely ill and dying. Such a policy is likely to have the additional effect of crippling and overwhelming the wider healthcare system with excess deaths unrelated to COVID-19.

“These wider issues with the healthcare system may not only impact Barbadians but could potentially result in tourists having poorer access to emergency care on the island and suffer as a consequence.”

We concede that our country cannot continue to live on borrowed money. And we have billions of foreign currency in store which will have to be repaid at some point.

We understand that the economy cannot be left to languish, for admittedly, it was in a state of disarray for several years. But if a reversal of positions is necessary to prevent the loss of life today, then the brakes ought to be applied.

Many countries that had managed to stabilise COVID-19 outbreaks have been forced to reinstitute lockdowns and other restrictions. With confirmation of the presence of two variants on the island, surveillance of our ports of entry will be critical.

Britain remains our most important source market for visitors and the BBC reported today the United Kingdom has registered a total of 9.4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and 142, 000 deaths.

What is important to note, however, is that 87 per cent of people in the UK aged 12 years and older have had their first vaccine, while 80 per cent have had their second, and 19 per cent have taken a booster shot.

Compared to us, British visitors will likely be visiting a place which many may view as less safe than their homeland. One of the main pillars to improving our situation is rapidly increasing vaccinations. From the numbers, we suspect the island has sadly reached its peak.

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