We are now just a few weeks away from Carnival 2023, dubbed hopefully as the ‘Mother of all Carnivals’. After a hiatus of two years, it is inevitable that we should look forward to putting behind us all the severe measures that Covid-19 imposed on us, as it did on the entire global community.
The reality is, however, that Covid-19 has never gone away, and indications are that it is afflicting millions of people again, albeit not yet to a great extent in this region.
In China, the case count is staggering, and reports are that hospitals, mortuaries and crematoriums are overwhelmed. Fox News states that in the populous Henan Province alone, 89 per cent of the population or over 88 million people, were infected as of January 6.
Entry restrictions on travellers from China have been imposed by the United States, Britain, Japan, Italy, Spain, Germany, South Korea, India, Morocco, and Guyana, among others, as they bid to keep out a highly contagious and dangerous variant of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
In the United Kingdom and the United States, case numbers are rising although the rates of hospitalisation and of mortality are not as great as they were when the virus first exploded around the world.
In some school districts in the USA, mask mandates are being re-instated for at least two weeks as infection rates among the school population rise alarmingly. In addition to Covid-19, these countries are also battling influenza and RSV, and Scarlet Fever is an additional worrying factor in the UK.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the Ministry of Health report dated January 3, 2023, confirms that over the period December 28, 2022 – January 3, 2023, there were 246 new cases and 6 deaths caused by the virus.
While these figures are relatively small, they still give cause for concern. To date, there has been no official word on the possible presence in this country of the XBB.1.5 coronavirus variant, a variant of great global concern.
While there should be no fear-mongering or panic among the population, it is imperative that when it does reach our shores, the Ministry of Health should release such information as soon as it has been verified.
The rumour mills are already busy churning out claims that the dreaded variant is with us, but these claims have not been substantiated by any governmental agency.
Whatever the true situation is, it is the responsibility of each of us to take every measure to protect ourselves and to safeguard the most vulnerable among us.
Simple precautions like the wearing of well-fitting masks in crowded or confined places, frequent handwashing, sanitising of communal areas and appropriate social distancing are within the ambits of personal responsibility. Vaccinations are being urged once again and testing of suspected cases is ongoing.
No sector of the society will welcome the shutdown of schools, businesses and places of worship or the return of mandatory curfews. Our economy has still not recovered from post-Covid-19 national restrictions and the recent island-wide flooding and consequent destruction of crops have aggravated our financial burdens.
It is in our own best interest that we safeguard our health and the well-being of our country as far as possible.
The Government has had some time to evaluate the measures that it took to protect the country from the scourge of Covid-19. As more information becomes available, it is imperative that our political, religious and other national leaders provide the country with scientifically backed, well-considered advice that will help us to deal with a threat that we must continue to take seriously, even as we strive to enjoy a better quality of life.
Carnival 2023 promises a much-needed respite from the many stresses that we have been enduring but let it not be remembered as “a carnival of misery” when it is all over.
Guyanese poet Martin Carter’s words in the poem, ‘This is the Dark Time My Love’, must not reflect our truth, must not describe an oppression which we place upon ourselves.
Trinidad Carnival in particular demands that we jump to a life-enhancing beat.
Photo by Vlad Bagacian