by Barry Collymore
We both made lists as we analysed the situation
Recently, I asked my son Zachary about the Covid situation and what he thought we could do to improve things. Disclaimer, I often pick his brain on things to get his views, as I am often pleasantly surprised at some of the brilliant answers I get.
I cannot tell you how much I have learnt from him. Plus these chats often afford me the opportunity to spend quality time with him. Anyone with teenagers knows that they definitely don’t think that hanging with their parents is cool anymore, and you can be quickly ushered away with phrases like, “Dad, I’m talking to my friends.” Lol. Anyway, he had 2 great suggestions which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Zach’s Covid list:
We should not only focus on getting kids back to school, but should also think about kids like him, who prefer to learn online. He believes that the process of getting up, getting dressed for school and then commuting, wastes valuable productive time. He believes that the hour and a half he “wastes” in the morning could be spent learning. He believes that an earlier start from home will give him better quality learning and more time to do things he enjoys in the evening. He thinks that too much of a child’s day is spent in school, and an earlier online start could help. He also thinks online school is the way of the future and we should start to embrace it.
For children at school, he believes that we need to get rid of lunch hour. He feels that kids should be allowed light snacks at their desks in case they get hungry. However, he feels that at lunchtime, all the protocols go away, as kids take off their masks to eat and engage in maskless playing. He feels in a situation where Covid is still rampant, this is a measure we could use to control it without sacrificing school. When Covid rates drop, he feels then lunchtime and normal hours could come back.
Barry’s Covid list:
With Zach’s list in hand, I thought about my own suggestions. And my feelings on the way forward. Here is my list:
Change your mind about Covid
I feel that we are looking at this Covid situation in a way that needs to change. This pandemic will be with us for a fairly long time. We, therefore, have to find ways around it. We can no longer hide from it.
Perhaps the biggest change we need to make is in our minds. We must ask ourselves this question. “Are we going to fight back with everything we have against this disease, or are we going to shut down, lockdown every time there is an increase in cases?”
We also have to accept that Covid is in our community. We have to fight this disease in our communities, not just at the border.
Vaccines are the way out, but not everyone will believe this
The most important tools in our arsenal are still vaccinations and boosters. However, we need to be more aware that not everyone sees it that way, and there are still some of us who vehemently oppose vaccination, in spite of all of the very strong scientific evidence. We may just have to accept that there are some issues we will disagree on.
However, in spite of this disagreement, we need to try to act in the best interest of the vulnerable. Our sick, young, and elderly population need to be protected, and need to be assured of safe environments. Therefore, vaccine mandates and protocols in high traffic and high-risk areas cannot be discarded.
Businesses also need to maintain the right to create safe work environments for customers and staff.
This vaccine disagreement may be solved this year, not by coercion or education but by the Covid antiviral pill. In fact, this might be the game changer. This Covid-19 pandemic has proven how little we believe in preventative medicine. We prefer to cure illness rather than prevent it. This pill will likely be the future of Covid treatment rather than vaccines and people will begin to accept that they will get Covid but cure it by using a pill. For some reason we are less worried about the side effects of pills.
Testing Testing, 1, 2, Free
We also need to recognise that the continued emphasis on PCR testing may not be sustainable. Covid-19 testing is expensive and has a short expiration date. While a Covid test may have some usefulness, it is not like other medical tests we do. For example, a test for cholesterol or blood sugar is more of a medium-term measure of our behaviour and remains valid for months. However, a test for a highly infectious and prevalent disease like Covid-19 is different. It is really just a snapshot of our status at that time, and may begin losing validity within minutes or hours depending on our behaviour.
For instance, we can test before we enter a party, a crowded supermarket or airport, and before we leave, within a few minutes or hours, we may pick up the virus which might then remain undetectable in our bodies for a few days after. No wonder countries like the UK are ending entry testing.
With this established, we may need to move to a scenario where we test more often instead of more accurately. If we are to continue with testing, (IF?), Caribbean Governments should move to more frequent antigen tests and only use PCRs in hospitals and on the really sick patients. However, I am not sure that we can test our way out of this. If we are to go forward with testing it needs to be faster, cheaper or FREE and more widely available.
Get out of the case race
We need to stop publishing our case numbers. We should only now publish deaths and seriously ill. The CASE RACE is creating undue stress and worry; causing paralysis in our economy; doing international damage to our economy and above all it is unfair to small nations.
Many Caribbean countries have now found themselves on a CDC red list because of their honesty and diligence in reporting numbers. The CDC and other rating agencies then take this data and use it in a manner which is discriminatory to small states. They calculate cases per million! This of course makes the situation seem worse in places with smaller populations as the per capita number makes it seem like Covid is worse in a smaller country. After that, they red list us and tell their citizens not to travel to red-listed places.
Caribbean Governments need to immediately unite and call for this type of reporting to stop. It is making us get red-listed too fast and without any fair basis. They may also need to temporarily cease information sharing with the WHO and CDC and call for a more fair way of calculating case number risk.
Get back to basics
In our communities, we need to be more of our brothers’ keepers. We need to make time to take care of each other. Make sure that our family members and friends wear masks and distance when called for, do regular medical checkups, eat local and healthy and get regular exercise. Those of us who understand science, must also encourage others to get vaccinated. Remember we are all in this together.
We may also need to change the ways that we socialise: more outdoor and meaningful activity; “keep our circle tight” with more family or close circle activity; less emphasis on things which may be detrimental to our health. Why do we need alcohol to be the Centre of all our social engagements? Fitness clubs, sporting groups, religious and spiritual activity and community groups need to become more prominent in our lives.
Protect our workers
The private sector, unions and NGO community also must recognise their important roles in this. I have heard the complaints of many employers over the last few days about the number of workers who are absent from work now, as a result of festive season activities. However, with those complaints we must recognise that some employers and community leaders have not been vocal enough and have not taken enough steps to protect our workforce. Remember we are small nations with very little redundancy capacity in our workforce. There is a finite amount of skilled labour. Therefore, a healthy and productive workforce is essential. We all have to do a better job in looking after our workers.
Keep the faith
Above all and most importantly, We also have to continue to pray, have faith and keep a positive attitude. I really believe that faith will be an important factor in this. We need to believe that like times before, when we faced great difficulties, God will be our guide.