The alarming spike in infections will require us to embrace a paradox: unite as a nation to keep a distance from one another, yet reaching out to others who are depressed and alone if only to find out they’re okay. Yet we need to keep apart until most of us are vaccinated. While in normal times, divisiveness might well be in tandem with social distancing, it only serves to make the current environment toxic and fearful in the middle of a deadly pandemic.
Unfortunately, some people refuse to accept that the reason for shutting down fast food outlets, including curbside deliveries, has nothing to do with the nature of the businesses. It prevents crowds from congregating while waiting to pick up or purchase food— precisely what they were doing before vending was stopped. It was only a matter of time before the Government shut down the sale of fast foods in retail membership outlets. The police can ill afford the resources to monitor these businesses. Trying to get around the regulations ultimately does not make good business sense but would undoubtedly increase coffin sales.
We don’t have to like the Government or the regulations to do what is sensible to protect ourselves. Obviously, the public health measures aren’t immune to partisanship, which like the COVID virus, mutates to nuanced forms of attacking the regulations from every angle. The Government has been consistent in its communication over the past 13 months. Still, the political culture is such that dissonant noises will always be heard against any policy. After all, dissent and division are integral to democracy; otherwise, there would not be competing political parties. Still, by the sheer force of circumstance, partisanship should be subordinated to the common good.
One of the most controversial measures implemented to prevent the virus from spreading is the closure of borders. Many other countries have shut theirs. However, stopping people from entering the country illegally is easier said than done, more so for countries like ours with porous borders. The proximity to Venezuela and its citizens’ plights to get here poses a significant challenge for national security. To provide some perspective, the USA has a military budget larger than the next ten countries ranked by military spending combined, allocating billions annually for customs and southern border protection. With all its resources, including the most sophisticated technology, it has not prevented hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants from crossing over annually. Ditto the UK and European countries. So, to speak of the need for more border controls on the assumption that that will stop illegal migrants is delusional. Only recently, there were loud noises about “no compassion” when the police implemented lawful border measures to protect us. Now that the rate of the COVID spread sinks in, people are blaming the Venezuelans, citing a lack of efficient border control. Another paradox or cognitive dissonance?
That aside, there is much room to manage our borders more efficiently. Like so much with the pandemic, it’s about minimising risks. Quarantining incoming travellers, managing nationals’ rate of return home, wearing masks, social distancing, shutting down non-essential businesses would not eliminate COVID but minimise the risks associated with it spreading out of control, resulting in the collapse of the health system.
Meaningfully managing it and reducing the death rate means vaccinating most of the population. We are in the same boat as are many countries in not obtaining adequate supplies quickly. The pandemic has exposed how vulnerable the region is to global forces. We shouldn’t wait for the next virus threat to be upon us before preparing for it. There must be opportunities for partnerships to produce health products for the regional population of approximately 50 million. That includes Cuba. Of course, mention that country and big pappy’s knee will be on the region’s neck.
I am reminded of the serenity prayer, “God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” We cannot stop all illegal migrants and must live in peace, and have compassion for our neighbours. Neither can we control the global vaccine supply system, branded “vaccine apartheid”—another example of inhumanity. It is no paradox that no country will be safe if most are not.