Covid19 and the old normal


"KNOCK KNOCK." "Who's there?" "Ithaveno." "Ithaveno who?" "It have no coronavirus in Trini!"

If you have doubts that people don't realise we must learn to live with covid19, look around you.

As the Government announced a further lifting of restrictions, citizens manifested different interpretations of what that easing meant. Overnight, masks started disappearing. While there are still many people wearing facial coverings, enough people appear in public bare-faced for this callous indifference to be a worry.

In small shops and restaurants, patrons mingle freely without masks in spitting distance of each other. The presence of other masked customers doesn't give them pause or suggest there's anything out of the ordinary happening – like a pandemic or something.

Physical distancing, in many instances, has also gone the way of masks. Trinis have reverted to clustering like desperadoes, fearful that if there is a hair's width between them and the person in front they won't get served/doubles/tru/link up.

For the most part, citizens have cherry-picked news reports on covid19, arriving at some startling conclusions – "there is no coronavirus in this country" is a common comment online. Consequently, an end to lockdown meant time to ramajay!

People are liming in bars in the same way they were before these watering holes were closed several months ago. At doubles feeding troughs across the country, herds of grazers stand chockablock chewing their bara and the fat. "Boy, dat waz duss eh! I tort 'twas rain," one guy shouted, in turn raining my shoulders with boulders.

Given that I always take my doubles to go, I can't understand why it's so difficult for others to do the same.

While larger businesses are militant in their enforcement of the hygiene rules and mask-wearing, smaller outfits are reticent on the matter. Perhaps struggling small businesses fear chasing off customers who could go elsewhere if their pride is bruised by being confronted with emasculating instructions.

One food establishment I visit occasionally explained they were told by the Ministry of Health that food servers needn't wear masks, but customers are obligated to do so. That doesn't make much sense, but it matters little anyway because the majority of their customers gave up masks and the concept of personal space ages ago.

The Government and its devout defenders continue to campaign on the perceived wild successes of a communications juggernaut. The careless abandon evident today, though, suggests covid19 education wasn't quite as effective as claimed. Turns out a communications strategy hinged mainly on a regular news conference characterised by exponential public disinterest didn't quite do the trick.

The lockdown ought to have been used to inculcate in the public a range of behaviours that would allow us to resist the incursions of the disease once restrictions abated and the borders reopened. Remarkably, if comments from members of the public are anything to go by, an embarrassing number of people seem to think the borders can remain closed indefinitely. What we need is a plan to reopen them safely. There must be a policy and a suite of safety practices to govern international travel for all sorts of reasons. Jamaica is doing it, and so should we.

Unless a country can remain shut to visitors or tourists forever, has no need of international trade and has a steady source of income on which it can rely without question or having to account for it, claiming victory against covid19 is a stretch. Since we can't all be Tobago, there needs to be a concrete plan for the eventual reopening of our borders and life changed by the pandemic.

Even if we were to keep the borders permanently closed, that wouldn't keep us safe either. The sociopolitical climate in neighbouring Venezuela remains volatile. It would be naive to think the flow of migrants has dried up.

With the coronavirus exploding across South America, the threat draws closer with Venezuelans continuing to sneak across and mix among us. Before you xenophobes and racists go having an organism, shaddap! Any reference here to Venezuelan migrants isn't an endorsement of your toxic, stupid hate. We must, however, temper compassion for our neighbours with practical safety measures.

Covid19 isn't going anywhere. Limiting community spread must always be top of mind. Society should have been on board with the long, slow behavioural change that would see the wearing of masks, physical distancing and proper hygiene practised fanatically.

The lockdown was supposed to be the treatment, not the cure. We didn't get that, so it's back to the old normal.


"Covid19 and the old normal"

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