Feb 27, 2021 Letters
I am having increasing doubts as to how serious we are, as a society, in this hard COVID-19 struggle. What cannot be ignored is that the many are minimizing, if not neutralizing, the work of the few that are risking so much. I share some situations from Guyanese life and let others be the judge, regarding the huge gaps in individual compliance, and the attendant gravity of the menaces posed.
In the hours surrounding this year’s Mash celebrations (unprecedented and limited by the pandemic), there were long stretches of areas that offered evidence of how we go about adhering to COVID-19 regulations in place, the continuum and far-flung extent of our incidents, and our official responses to the two. I start on the Linden Highway. The lines of cars were endless, the gatherings huge, the parties in full swing around the vicinity of one resort after another. It goes without saying that masking, sanitizing, and social distancing all fell by the wayside, while the physical gyrations intensified, and the spirits surged in undulating imbibing ripples, then waves. There was scant (no) regard for restraining curfew hours in place. My understanding is that two places – only two – were called to task, with what may have been the mere going through of the motions; or, worse yet, targeting of the objectionable. It is timely to note and share that Guyana’s ethnic rainbow was well represented.
Also, and as an indication of the contempt for the protocols in place, there were massed (no exaggeration) holiday revelers at the junction of the Soesdyke-Linden entrance/exit approaches. So much for firm enforcement. Moving northward, to the area around Thomas Lands and Albert Street, the motorized caravans were out in full force. The assembled was not for the National Park, or the sprawling army village. Moving in a more westerly direction and this is before the Mash festivities, the Main Street thoroughfare was a study in parked vehicles, and on both the eastern and western sides of that well-known and well-patronized street. Something tells me that those citizens were not there for the exotic eating fare from the Far East. To this eclectic mix, I add lower Middle Street and I leave the rest to commonsense: the vehicles were present; the fast crowd people were out and about. It should not slip either attention or understanding that State House, the official residence of Guyana’s First Citizen, is plumb in the center of the celebrations, never sparse, never muted.
Editor, that is not all. As we learned post Mash, a man died where a crowd of some 500 partygoers had congregated. At just before 06:00hrs on Mash Day itself, there was the story of life in the hip lane, COVID-19 or no COVID-19. In the midst of that long moment of living it up, a man gave up his life involuntarily. Where are our sentinels and how hobbled they appear, in the manner that they have been? I put that on the table of consideration, regardless of the source of the hobbling, be it self-inflicted or from higher official circles. I make no conjectures, arrive at no conclusions. But the situations speak of a damning and endangering nonchalance. I am appreciative of official manpower limitations, and the vastness countrywide responsibilities that stretches thin. Still, I believe that more could have been done; at the very least something, if only a show of exhortatory presence.
Editor, it should not escape attention that the spaces touched are on the brighter, closer, and more travelled side. One must wonder of the situations in rural areas, which may not be as concentrated, but no less unobservant. As I think of all this, I ask myself, how serious are we, where are we going, and where will we end up in this uphill battle with an elusive foe. People are dying daily, and there is a steady flow of confirmed new cases of infection. The citizens gathering heedlessly have families to return to, friends and communities with whom they interact, and places of commerce and work that they attend. The joyful are not some remote Amazonian tribe, but those who are in the midst of a vulnerable society. Is anybody listening? Is anybody acting beyond appeal and moral suasion? When we conduct ourselves like this, the sterling efforts of our frontline workers are wasted; we add to their burdens, fears, and exposures. We put others in harm’s way. Yet, it is business as usual, with life lived recklessly and to the peril of others, who are toeing the line.
I think it would comfort to observe a broad-based and genuinely meaningful deterrent that targets those who violate and hold us hostage.
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