by Ian Blaikie
A killer is at large. Everyone is aware of this. It kills about one in every hundred people it meets, which if unchecked would mean about 1,000 Grenadians.
It makes others very, very sick, some chronically so, straining medical facilities worldwide to bursting point and beyond. With its threat to life, it is bringing even robust economies to their knees, quite apart from the anguish of families losing loved ones.
Grenada was until recently blissfully immune from this threat. And then came the weekend of 11 – 13 December. The ‘cluster’ at Sandals has, within days, spread to infected, hence infectious, people at several workplaces and in several families and communities. It is spreading. It is going viral. That’s what viruses do.
The measures to prevent the spread have been common knowledge for months. Wear the mask, and keep your distance. Isolate as far as possible. Wash and sanitise. We are all the ‘frontline workers.’ Covid prevention is everyone’s business. And yet…
Today I had no alternative but to go food shopping, and to go into my bank. There were about 20 customers in the bank, although half could easily have waited outside. A security guard told me to sanitise my hands. I asked him to put his mask over his nose. He again indicated the sanitiser. I repeated my request that he put his mask over his nose. He again pointed to the sanitiser. I again asked him to wear his mask properly. Only now did he tell me that he had ‘sinus’ and could not wear the mask. Is this an excuse? This is not only ridiculous: it is dangerous.
He can be found duties outside. And: 6 of the bank’s customers had uncovered noses: a 7th was not wearing his mask at all. All were unchallenged by bank and security staff. A bank employee who was wiping down surfaces wore his mask below the nose. If the nose is not covered, you may as well not be wearing a mask at all.
The next 14 days will tell whether the bank or the supermarket that followed, has been an assault on my life and that of others: in other words, whether it has become a ‘cluster’. It was doing little to avoid becoming one. I am vulnerable, having 2 significant risk factors. Am I the only one who, in the interest of self-defence, asks people to wear masks properly? If so, why?
At the supermarket, I was asked to record my name, address and phone number. Admission was controlled, but the supermarket was still crowded. Several shoppers were wearing masks improperly or not at all, unchallenged. The security guard had, as in the bank, an uncovered nose. He complied with my request to cover it – but did he uncover it later, I wonder? Shouldn’t security guards ensure security? On the short walk from Sugar Mill to Wall Street, I encountered 3 buses whose conductors had uncovered noses or faces. A 4th offered me his bus. I said, “I wouldn’t use your bus if you paid me: you are not wearing a mask”. He promptly covered his face. For how long?
The government and the medical authorities can ‘encourage’ and ‘urge’ and ask for ‘responsibility’ repeatedly, but compliance is not forthcoming. A chain is as strong as its weakest link, and there are not as many strong links as the authorities like to think.
A month ago, it would not have mattered. Now, it is a matter of survival. ‘Violation of protocols’ is a lovely phrase; a new piece of 2020 jargon. It masks (forgive me) a genuine threat, and a further avoidable delay to our freedom, normality, and economic recovery.
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