Sat | Nov 27, 2021

Letter of the Day | We need to be ‘under heavy manners’ to beat COVID-19

Published:Wednesday | March 24, 2021 | 12:09 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

For a while, in the 1970s, I worked as a shipmaster on freighters travelling regularly to the Newport West Terminals in Kingston, Jamaica. The government of the day introduced a state of emergency in mid-1976, lasting about a year, due to a political crisis. Sharp-witted and stoic Jamaicans coined the phrase ‘under heavy manners’ – describing what they saw as a state of oppression, and a song of the same name became very popular. The expression travelled across the Atlantic to be used in the United Kingdom during Margaret Thatcher’s reign as prime minister.

These thoughts crossed my mind when watching British Columbia’s chief public health officer reporting the latest COVID-19 figures on March 22. The inoculation programme is under way, after false starts awaiting delivery of the vaccine from Ottawa, but new cases have numbered about 600 a day constantly, with no decline for several weeks. Care home residents are not dying at such an awful rate as before, but now younger people are filling the hospitals and ICU beds. You don’t have to be an epidemiologist or scientist to understand that the pandemic is spreading by far too many of the population becoming careless, and deliberately relaxing the common-sense restrictions put in place by health authorities. Health professionals apparently decided to ease restrictions during spring break, because they figured young people would break more rigid rules, claiming mental stress. There is similar reasoning by authorities in other Canadian provinces, giving permission for mixing outdoors in limited groups, but never indoors, where the virus is so dangerous in confined spaces.

I have respected how health authorities have handled the pandemic in Canada up to now, but with the steady rise in numbers of virus variants, this is no time to take their foot off the gas. The public should not expect that things will soon be looking magically better, but need to be advised of the hard facts — that even though the vaccine will eventually protect those who get inoculated, there is still a long row to hoe. Travel restrictions, masking and social distancing will all be part of the new normal in the foreseeable future. That light at the end of the tunnel may indeed be an express train carrying the more dangerous variant, and we still need to treat this pandemic as a wartime enemy. Just imagine if populations in English cities like London and Liverpool had relaxed the blackout regulations during the World War II blitz.

We have seen rank stupidity of super-spreaders with protests of anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers and assorted ‘Covidiots’ in Miami and several cities in UK and Europe over the weekend. We can all learn from their ignorance and foolishness, and from the wisdom of Jamaicans in 1976; so let’s resolve to beat this pandemic ‘under heavy manners’.

BERNIE SMITH

Parksville, British Columbia

Canada