Fighting the covid19 monster

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith - Sureash Cholai
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith - Sureash Cholai

THERE ARE lots of monsters around these days, most recently Godzilla and King Kong among them.

But the biggest monster of all is covid19, and there are signs the State needs urgently to reconsider its tactics to fight it ahead of the long weekend, and the long school vacation to come.

Judging from events at MovieTowne on Saturday, and the response from Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, it’s clear the Government has little choice but to scale up restrictions.

While there is understandable reluctance to return to a full lockdown, the time has come for the State to embrace a more nuanced approach. It should consider imposing partial or graded lockdowns over very specific high-risk periods such as long weekends, public holidays and school vacations.

This could involve a return to measures we are already familiar with, such as the selective closing of specific spaces such as beaches, bars, restaurants and cinemas. And it could follow the system of colour-coded alert levels used in other countries such as the UK.

The large crowd outside MovieTowne led Mr Griffith to say it was a situation that was difficult to control because parents treat cinemas as babysitters. Further, he complained considerable resources had to be deployed (he himself went to the venue, with five police patrols).

If this is indeed, and remains, the case, the only solution might be to shut down cinemas altogether for now.

While people are by now familiar with what needs to be done to stay safe, it is clear even the best systems of self-regulation can come undone during busy periods.

Cinemas and other recreation spots have implemented rules to make things manageable and safer, such as capping customers at half-capacity. But during peak periods the rush can become too much to manage, as evident from the crowds of children gathering to see monster movies, partake of "monster" bargains or just lime – in what could have become a virus superspreader event.

Coupled with the fatigue that has taken root owing to the length of the pandemic, as well as the frustrating uncertainties surrounding the non-arrival of vaccines, the situation is a dangerous one. Complacency can easily cross the line into recklessness, whether we are talking about children at cinemas or adults at bars.

There will undoubtedly be costs associated with an escalation of restrictions, which will hit already badly-hit commercial spaces.

But as the Prime Minister observed on Saturday, we cannot afford another wave of this virus.

Which is why the Government would do well to examine its options when it comes to refreshing grant funding and support for businesses that have been detrimentally affected, as has occurred all over the world. Such support might be a small price to pay given that we cannot afford more slips in the long run.

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"Fighting the covid19 monster"

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