Different day, same plot. The COVID-19 dashboard provided high numbers for Region Four. Soon after two more deaths were announced.
The police are now appearing to be making a greater effort to enforce the curfew. People were not taking it seriously. Large number of vehicles could be seen driving on the road after 6pm. People were moving about seemingly unbothered that they were flouting the curfew.
Ironically, it appears that the police are now clamping down just when the curfew hours are about to be relaxed, if reports in the media are to be believed. It is now being rumoured that instead of tightening the curfew hours, the government will be reverting to a 9pm to 4am curfew.
If the truth be told, the 6pm to 6am curfew presented some problems. For those living as far as Parika, it is difficult if you have to leave work at 5pm to get home by 6pm given the traffic situation between Georgetown and West Demerara.
It was also inconvenient for persons to have to wait until 6am to begin their day’s business. For one, the sun is now rising around 5.30am in the mornings and therefore it robs the early morning fitness fanatics of at least an hour of exercise when they have to wait until 6pm to hit the road. Normally, they would be on the road a half of an hour before sunrise, which in this instance would be 5pm.
Some persons also have to travel long distances to get to work. The late start to the morning affects them.
There is no harm therefore in pushing back the curfew to 6:30pm to 4:30am. Instead, it is now being reported that the curfew is now going to be from 9pm to 4am.
To add further worries, it is also being reported that international flights will resume from 12th October. The world is now in a second wave of the coronavirus. Yet, this is the time which the government is choosing to reopen the country’s international airport.
Why would a responsible government relax the curfew at a time when the total infections and deaths are at their highest? The decision about reopening the economy is immaterial. The economy, apart from the nightclubs, restaurants, rum shops, other bars and striptease joints, has been open for months now.
Why then relax the curfew? There are a few possible explanations. First, it could be that some government officials miss going to their favourite watering holes. During the pandemic, one of their favourite haunts was the Marriot Hotel.
But those government officials may want their more popular watering holes such as that place on Main Street where they love to hang out. The decision to relax the curfew may be influenced by the need of the governing class to have some entertainment.
But as insensitive as the government may be, it is not going to simply move towards a full reopening of the economy unless there is a real danger of the economy crashing.
Businesses have been losing money for months now. This threatens not just the viability of the services and manufacturing sectors but also the financial sector which owes hundreds of billions and is unable to pay. This can be the reason why the government, instead of tightening social restrictions, is moving to a full reopening of the economy.
The backlash will come. It will come in the form of more infections and more deaths. Already there is widespread grief within the country. For five months, a monumental mistake was made in keeping testing levels low. The then government was being misadvised to limit testing. But also limited testing was taking place because there was little international support for the countries efforts to combat the pandemic.
If during those five months, the social restrictions were being enforced, we would not have been where we are today. But the experiences of other countries have also been that as the economy reopens, there is a massive increase in infections and deaths.
Guyanese have to begin to prepare for more suffering. Put your personal affairs in order. The next number on the COVID-19 may very well be you. The economy is more important than you.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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