EDITORIAL - A modern pestilence
“The coronavirus doesn’t fit the old templates, which explains the reluctance of government officials and citizens to do what has to be done. Its arrival in the United States was only a matter of time, but weeks went by without serious action…” – Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune, March 13, 2020
“In Italy we waited too long, these countries should really start implementing aggressive containment measures now,” – Silvia Mercer, Italian researcher, 2020
The recently WHO-declared pandemic, the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, as it has been officially dubbed, poses a clear and present threat to a globalised world with its established deleterious impact on so many facets of human existence; the personal, the familial, the financial, the economic, the social, the political, the industrial and the commercial, among others.
When we consider that these consequences are being effected simultaneously at both the local and international levels, Marshall Mc Luhan’s global village is swiftly becoming de-populated as the portals to more and more countries are daily slammed shut; mass gatherings are discouraged and people are being warned not to stand within three to six feet of each other; the current phenomenon of social distancing.
As major international sporting events are either cancelled or deferred with the confident expectation that all will soon be well in some uncertain future and most educational institutions go on unscheduled furloughs, we sense with each passing day that life as we knew it as recently as three moths ago may have been irrevocably changed.
Meanwhile, as daily news reports inform of the steadily rising infection and death rates from the virus in other countries, including some of our neighbours, we have so far been thankfully spared any further incidence of the disease within our shores beyond the few cases announced so far. While we are of course grateful for this actuality, it would be foolhardy to believe that none of our citizens will ever be affected at all, given, as an analogy, the rate of contraction of influenza locally during the annual ’flu season.
It is for this reason that we have a philosophical difficulty with the official refusal to take more aggressive precautionary measures such as the statutory prohibition of mass gatherings and the temporary closure of our courts and churches as has been the case elsewhere. Indeed, it required a spectacular U-turn by the authorities the other night to close the nation’s schools.
Moreover, a national over-reliance on the fact of our current fortunate status, while others daily report infections, is likely to lead to a near blasphemous complacency, more frequently observed during the regional hurricane season, that ascribes a Barbadian nationality to God simply because we are less frequently affected by these natural phenomena than some of our neighbours.
It might be, in that particular context, that this island lies in a providential geographical position, but the sequelae of Covid-19 appear to have little to do either with geographical location or with seasonal occurrence.
Unsurprisingly, this circumstance of emergency has paralleled that of an impending hurricane, leading to the usual incidence of panic buying, price gouging, hoarding and a regrettable incivility. We can and must do better.
We should remind readers that this is scarcely a time for selfishness, since one’s own freedom from infection depends primarily on that of his or her “neighbours”; defined in our paraphrase of a celebrated dictum as those who are so likely to come into infectious contact with you that you ought reasonably to have them in contemplation when you are seeking to avoid personal contraction of the virus.
For now, that may include every other current resident of Barbados. Stay safe, readers.