“A year ago, today…” read the reminder on my social media feed, and I immediately knew what was coming. A year ago today, 22 March, Grenada diagnosed and announced the first case of Covid-19.
And just like that, like the rest of the world, our little island paradise became an unwitting soldier in the battle to curb this deadly virus. For days prior, I had been glued to social media, lapping up every available story or post that I could, and praying fervently that Grenada did not experience what my adopted country, the United Kingdom, was experiencing.
You see, I had the misfortune of getting the view of that deadly virus from “up top.” Literally. Only a week and a half before Grenada’s first case, I hustled back to the United Kingdom after having visited my family in Grenada. By then, we were being warned of airport closures and lockdown, and I, naively thought then, that it was better to get back to the UK while I could. No one could have foreseen what came next. The rest, as they say, is now one for the history books.
By early April, I had already been personally affected by the loss of the father of a close friend, the uncle of a close colleague, the cousin of another close friend, and an aunt and several of my colleagues and friends were battling or had contracted Covid-19 in the UK and the United States. It was all so unbelievable, and yes, I acutely feared for my life and theirs.
While the UK was slow in its early response to Covid-19, they eventually imposed the restrictions needed to preserve lives. Unfortunately, by then, they had already lost tens of thousands of lives, many of them Grenadians. To date, the UK has lost close to 130, 000 lives in one year, due to this deadly virus.
But what the UK lost in Covid-19 management, it has sure made up for in vaccine rollout and uptake. It has been heartening to see so many people in the different categories rush to get their vaccine as soon as they were able to do so — myself and my family included.
Now I cannot wait to get back to my island paradise — Grenada, which, a year later, due to what I believe was prudent and proactive management, especially in the early days of the virus, has done better than most countries in the world in protecting its people. The responsible policies enacted by the administration, as well as the overall responsiveness of the population, have resulted in Grenada being relatively unscathed throughout this crisis.
But Grenada’s blessing is now proving a hindrance to efforts to effectively prevent any further outbreak of the virus and to get back to relative normalcy. Measures to control the virus, such as the wearing of masks, practicing good hygiene and physical distancing, have been proven to work and were the best methods available throughout 2021, but as a social culture, I assumed that most would embrace the vaccine, which is our best bet yet, at preserving lives and effectively curbing the spread of Covid-19.
Selfishly too, my friends and I have been incessantly planning to get home in July, and we have been hoping that maybe, just maybe, there would be some version of Spice Mas this year. We know that this is only possible if a significant percentage of the population receives the vaccine.
The reports of the vaccine uptake in Grenada, however, unlike in a number of neighbouring Caribbean countries, are not encouraging. This is why I stated before, that Grenada’s success at Covid-19 management is proving to be its downfall in getting back to lives and livelihoods.
Several Caribbean countries have vaccinated tens of thousands of people. In fact, within a couple of weeks, one country had to pause its vaccine rollout because it ran out of vaccines. Within the first couple of weeks of vaccinations, several neighbouring Caribbean countries had vaccinated in excess of 12,000 people and climbing. It has now been a month, and Grenada is still woefully below that of its neighbours—not even at 10,000.
As we discuss with concern, I can understand the plausible causes for that lower than expected statistic. Grenada has not yet seen anywhere the levels of outbreaks or deaths experienced by neighbouring Islands. While many around the Caribbean and world have experienced the wrath of Covid-19 up close and are still reeling from the social and emotional effects, this has not been Grenada’s fate. I imagine that it is difficult to be scared of or hurry to get vaccinated against a disease that you have not seen or felt directly. Yet.
That is human behaviour.
Vaccine uptake is proving to be proportional to the levels of Covid-19 infections and deaths. I get it. I understand it.
What I don’t understand and cannot imagine is the lack of haste to resume life as we knew it, in a country that relishes social activities, and in a country in which tourism and St. George’s University are the greatest contributors to GDP.
To break this down, I cannot imagine how families, friends and the general population are not more anxious to get back the jobs lost to Covid-19 in the tourism and travel industries, in agriculture, in private education, in real estate, and small business.
Now, I am not blindly advocating taking the vaccine, but I am gently encouraging everyone reluctant, to avail yourself of the scientific information that is out there, to help you understand better and make an informed decision to protect yourself and your family, and to get back to what you once loved.
That’s what I did.
As a retired nurse, I understood the science but I also did further research. I talked to former colleagues. I read the reports. I spoke with my health care officials. I encouraged my family to do the same. They did, and those of us in the UK are all vaccinated. Those in Grenada have taken their first dose.
We all want the same thing: to see the back of Covid-19 so that we can resume normal activities.
You see, like most people who complied with Covid-19 measures, I have been wearing my mask and practicing physical distancing to protect my family, friends and community, but I hastened to take the vaccine because it is the only way back from this dreaded disease.
It is the only sustainable way back to finally being able to freely visit my elderly parents and family members.
I took the vaccine to be able to travel again, without anxiety and crippling fear.
I took the vaccine to be allowed freedom of travel again. Anywhere.
I took the vaccine to one day go to Grenada, to join my family and friends and maybe soon, to play a Jab in the street again — Free from curfew, free from distancing, free from fear.
I took the vaccine so that I could one day remove my mask, and play a Mas.
I took the jab for life.
A Jab for Life