Jan 17, 2021 Letters
To say that I am baffled is only part of the story. To say that I am disappointed leaves more than a lot of space untouched. To be quite frank, what the Hon. Minister of Public Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, has overseen and had to be a part of is endangering, because it is, I must say it, irresponsible, even reckless. I speak of the news items indicating “authorities” giving clearance for reopening of public indoor dining (restaurants, etc.) on a limited basis during this COVID-19 pandemic. To the Hon. Minister, I humbly submit this citizen’s plea: reverse and scrap the thought, sir. Though announced under the umbrella of “authorities” this tiers all the way up to the minister, to whom I urge: don’t do it, doc.
A look at our circumstances easily confirms that we have crept back into perilous territory. The numbers are against any expansion of measures in place, some of which are good, others not supportable. There was a warming, encouraging dip for a short time, just before the holidays when new cases of the virus actually went into the single digits, and fatalities fell very low, occasionally to zero. But that momentary blip is now eclipsed, and by alarming strides, by the almost three score count that now seems to be the order of the day; three score new cases of infection and a death or two alongside. This is not good, and yet the minister responsible for health safety appears unmoved and has allowed this to proceed with some reopening of restaurants. As the Hon. Minister himself shared in sections of the media, there have been over 500 cases detected in school children since March of last year. This is why it is so bewildering that the minister looks as though he is going against the grain of good sense and into the teeth of ominous viral winds.
The Hon. Minister should know better, and I think that he does. And because he cannot plead ignorance, then he should reverse going in the direction made official in the gazette. He knows about the feared ‘second wave;’ he should know very well about the larger than last year casualties and traumas revisited on places with advanced science and technology and facilities, and with much fear and reeling happening; and of frightening mutant strains next door. Still, the door is open, which is the wrong one. All of us, at least I do; want to get moving again and briskly. To shake hands and hug. Yes, there is awareness that not every tee can be crossed and every ‘I’ dotted, but I am sure that we can do better; and doing better can only be achieved by being conservative.
The nation has been informed that the vaccines will not be here until the second quarter. I do hope that it is this year; but even if it is, as a practical matter, Guyanese are looking at 5-6 months of waiting, and that is being optimistic. I read of arguments and concerns about vaccine democracy and I wonder in which world that is going to happen. I make no judgement and cast no aspersions on what may unfold here. Yet, when I consider past practices and standards (current ones, too) I have difficulty believing that integrity will grace local arrangements for a limited vaccine supply. But that is another issue for later in the day.
Presently, I am focused on this development involving approval for limited public dining. Citizens have been casual about obeying rules and regulations put in place; it is an essential part of the disorderliness and untidiness (a euphemism) of Guyanese culture and life; simply pass by spots of social gatherings and there is little by way of social distancing. Some commercial enterprises, always a law onto themselves, have been less than diligent in enforcing the mandates laid down by authorities as a means of limiting the spread of this plague. Observant citizens have complained and cursed at the violators and selective enforcement. Moreover, the Hon. Leader of the Opposition came out of his wintry hibernation to criticize the same selective and troubling practice. I am delighted that he did, and who knows, one of these days he may see his shadow like that much watched groundhog of American lore, Punxsutawney Phil.
Editor, there is neither facetiousness nor an attempt at humour, given the serious subject at hand. I am serious and sharply so. My wish, my hope, my call is for the final decision-maker, in this instance, Dr. Frank Anthony, will step up and live up to his nationwide obligations as minister and do the best thing by nixing this permission for limited reopening. He is ultimately responsible. He does not need any guidance from the likes of me; he knows that there is only one decision to make. Hon. Minister: just do it! Give Guyanese a fighting chance. Save the children. Save us from our impatient, indifferent selves.
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