After an interminable interval, finally and slowly, coverage relative to the coronavirus has nudged other priorities from the headlines of Guyanese media. Despite the menaces of this global scourge, the local reactions have left much to be desired. This merely suffices to reinforce how limited, backward, and far gone are a great many in this irresponsible society. Not even a crisis – real, not overblown, lethal and not just fleeting – is able to wrest us by the scruff of the neck to compel some understanding in locals.
At this time, some reality checks may be helpful. Countless Guyanese have close relations living in the United States, with the greatest number clustered in New York City, particularly in the borough of Queens. WhatsApp has contributed immensely to making us aware of furloughs, rotations, and fears impacting people, which are not the news of strangers, but of people known and loved. This is in an advanced society, which despite its many advantages is reeling under the weight of the viral onslaught. The problem is that the peak may still be ahead.
But still we in this country linger in a state of continuing unpreparedness, as though daring the Fates to come forward for a wrestling match. There is only one loser resulting from any such encounter. At the individual level, there is lamenting about lack of direction, though there have been streams of cautionary information, elections brawls notwithstanding. While many play the fool, and we are incomparably good at this, there is yet another consideration that eludes personal interest and urgency, as well as the required responsibilities that come with such.
It is as if, and this is based on reactions from broad sections of the populace, this most worrying of health scourges does not really exist, is somewhere over there in foreign locales, is not here as yet and, should it do so, then we are ready to beat it into quick submission. This is despite the fact that there has been real news of one fatality, with a still truly undetermined number of unaware infected to be recognised.
Last Thursday, the media reported that Guyanese, who were stranded in the region, had agreed to mandatory quarantine as part of the arrangement to allow home, proceeded to promptly breach that agreement upon arrival at the international airport.
Against better judgment and restraining voices, the incoming had to be near to and touch close family members, who had gathered to greet. Something has to be terribly wrong with us. Here it is that a salvaging operation was set in motion and concluded, and the hoped-for benefits of that development were being squandered almost immediately, and without a thought or concern in the world.
Wiser people than us the world over are committed to doing the opposite, if only to increase the chances for self-preservation, and to manage the downstream effect through doing personal part to limit the potential for spread.
Our world threatens to fall apart and stay so for an extended period, but still we insist, in either idiotic bravado or misplaced arrogance to remain unheeding. Tropical heat slows, not eradicates. In the face of all this, it seems more than reasonable to take the position that this confirms the primitive mindsets that prevail here and the real world that exists here in Guyana.
We do so to our great peril. This is said because on March 25, the Wall Street Journal carried a story titled, “Coronavirus is advancing on poor nations, and the prognosis is troubling” with the secondary caption of, “The pandemic is taking off in vulnerable countries that join the battle with fewer weapons than developed countries.” Undoubtedly, that is a snapshot of Guyana’s circumstances. For oil or no oil, we are currently “poor” and vulnerable and are limited by “fewer weapons” at our disposal to fight.
The realities are before us: test kits – where are we today versus when awareness first came? Official response (refer to earlier airport incident mentioned) – how compelling or controlling is this? Relative to comprehensive readiness should the floodgates bow under this viral assault – where do we really stand? Lastly, responsible leaders – how about daily briefings, like Gov. Andrew Cuomo?
Clearly, even a crisis fails to galvanise us wisely.
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