THE EDITOR: Humanity has lived with covid19 for over a year. It has been a challenging time for all of us. Humans are by nature social beings, but we became vulnerable to an invisible threat that thrives on our interaction by being ourselves. Lockdowns began, physical distancing became a new normal, and masks went on. What strange times!
Pre-2020, could you imagine going into a bank without a facemask being a security liability? In such times, as we retreated into our personal space, I wrote early in the covid19 experience that we should reflect on ourselves and our direction as humanity. Sadly one year later we have not learned anything.
If we recognise that the spread of covid19 requires a belief in logical, factual data and translating this into personal action and responsibility, public health ordinances will be unnecessary. We would understand and embrace the benefit and risk conversation of vaccinations logically. We would defeat this unseen enemy with no respect for age, gender, ethnicity or political persuasion.
We should not need a law to tell us what to do, especially after one year of becoming pandemic experts through the lived experience. But our failure at personal discipline and responsibility and the resultant rise in numbers led to yet another public health ordinance and lockdown and unimaginable suffering. Therefore, I remind each of us that, ultimately, our discipline and personal responsibility will protect us.
As a medical doctor, the news of a lockdown is very mixed. As I battle with the professional decisions and challenges I have to make about covid19 while trying to force the fear of getting the virus or, worse yet, bringing it home to my older parents with comorbidities, I welcome any public health action that will flatten the curve.
But in my interaction with patients, I have seen the untold consequence it has on lives. Countless people are jobless, including people near and dear to me. In one night, they went from financially secure to vulnerable. In my professional capacity, single mothers have come to me desperate for social support. The children are home, and with no adult to supervise them, these mothers cannot go out and get a job in a nearly nonexistent market.
Children are robbed of friendships and social education and are forced to enter a virtual, emotionally disconnect world behind a screen. And what about those children who cannot afford a device or technological access? Well, they have fallen off the education grid completely. Their futures and fortunes have now changed, signalling that while lockdowns may bring covid19 numbers down eventually, we will live with the consequences of the past year for generations to come.
While personal discipline is the duty of every citizen in the country, our leaders have to rise to the occasion and meet the needs of the unseen and easily forgotten vulnerable in our country. Lockdowns cannot be reactive but should come with a plan to balance the long-term consequences with the essential short-term gains we need to keep virus numbers down and prevent healthcare collapse.
It is not acceptable to blame the population – you chose leadership and must have understood the culture of our people. It is not acceptable that we have not achieved technological connectivity one year after in the 21st century to provide our children access to education. And it is not sufficient that after one year, citizens of our nation are still locked out, with no clear plan or policy to return home to loved ones and interests within our borders.
Policymakers must utilise resources in some sustainable way to help our people because it belongs to all of us, represents a protective investment, and is not a charity. And we shift from a reactive response to this pandemic to a proactive one.
Scientists have long told us that pandemics are among the greatest threat to humanity, and in 2020 we came to realise this reality. So are we just going to react through this entire response until covid19 is over and hold on to hope that we will return to a normal that may never return?
Suppose after the covid19 pandemic a new pathogen emerges, what will we do then? Do not shoot down or dismiss every dissenting voice in a novel challenge; we are all students with no experts.
As I remind all of us, from the ordinary man to the leaders, of our responsibility, discipline and duty, I also say a prayer and wish all well. It is easy to sit and write a commentary, but leadership at this time is not desirable. The decisions are going to be hard ones always.
Therefore let us pray and support our healthcare workers who, in the conduct of duty, do not have the luxury to stay home or physically distant as they care for the ill.
Let us remember our vulnerability in our nation and pray for solutions to keep everyone well, both in the immediate and in the years to come. Let us pray that we will use evidence to guide our judgments. And last but not least, let us pray for our leaders, on all paths of the political spectrum, that they will conduct their duties safely and proactively.
DR VEDAVID MANICK