Tuesday 20 October, 2020

The challenges and 'blessing in disguise' of COVID-19 in St Lucia

Reverend Seth Ampadu

Reverend Seth Ampadu

Head of the Methodist Church in Saint Lucia, Reverend Seth Ampadu, has taken stock of the various challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown and found within it, a blessing in disguise.

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet implemented stringent measures to ensure social distancing protocols were being kept as the island attempts to control cases of COVID-19.

This also included a 24-hour curfew to ensure compliance.

"There is no doubt that the nationwide lockdown has brought some discomfort to many of us. The 24-hour curfew was like a “hellfire” for almost everyone across the nation. Life suddenly came to a halt and people who previously were in the habit of going out for work, shopping at the market, hanging around with friends, gathering in chapels for worship, entertainment at the cinema, KFC with the children, etc., now find it quite hard to pass the time at home. What seems to have broken the camel’s back is the need to maintain social distance because we are people of community, people of “neighborly communion,” Ampadu noted.

This, according to him, has led to increased levels of anxiety and depression, and feelings of fear, agitation, anger, loss, and loneliness. 

"Such feelings would have been as a result of loss of a business, loss of customers, loss of investments, loss of a job, loss of livelihood and the crippling of economic activities in the nation due to the decline of international tourism. From all indications, we are living in hard and trying times and no one would like to be in such a situation."

The situation, he noted, has created uncertain about the future of the local economy. 

"Our business arena is uncertain; how to revamp the economy to bring life back to normal, or even better for the society, has become a headache. It appears this crisis is defining new realities for us. Now our school system is moving to e-learning which has already made many parents anxious and frustrated. There is no problem in going to e-learning. The question is, how could parents cope leaving their “poor” children at the mercy of e-learning in the home while they go out to work?  How would these children be supervised properly at home? As a society, how can we adjust to these new realities, and re-define our society in these new times?

In trying to win this COVID-19 fight, it seems to me that, as a people, we must commend our national leaders from both political divides, especially, the Honorable Allen Chastanet and his cabinet members, as well as the Honorable Philip J. Pierre and his opposition members. Honestly speaking, with all politics aside, these two gentlemen have demonstrated a sense of maturity in leading this COVID-19 fight. The Prime Minister took bold decisions and pro-active measures that have helped a lot in stabilizing the spread of this disease, even though the fight is not over yet. 

Our Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sharon Belmar-George, and her team of medical personnel deserve to be applauded along with our security officials and all the other frontline workers. We, the citizenry, also need to pat our backs for cooperating with the authorities, especially during the 24-hour curfew. However, there are some of us who are still not observing the mandated social distancing which is of major concern because this behaviour can prevent our nation from fully recovering from this fight. It is a fact that social distancing is difficult to observe. It takes discipline to do so, to mitigate community spread."

Ampadu questions whether the unity displayed between the government and the opposition will continue post-COVID-19. 

"Having made the above comments, I think that to some extent, this nationwide lockdown has been a blessing to all of us. During this period of curfews and lockdown, it seems we have not recorded any major robbery, violence and shooting as used to happen before. So I think this is a plus for all of us and we need to maintain this momentum. We can also talk about family gatherings, where there has been a reunion of parents and children at home. Parents have been able to spend time with their children as well as help other children whose parents are weak, passive, worn-out or careless and who don't supervise their children well.

This time has also brought about a time of relaxation. People who were always on the go have had the time to slow down and rest for a while to re-energize themselves. I believe that those who used to complain that they do not get time to exercise and read their favorite books now got the opportunity to do so. We can also talk about sleeping. We know sleeping is good for us and I suspect that during this lockdown, people have had the opportunity to sleep and be revitalized.

As a result of stringent travel restrictions across the country and the shutting down of non-essential activities including air polluting industry-related activities, for example, construction work, heavy equipment transportation, and diesel motor operations, the air quality in our society would no doubt be improved. Additionally, I believe fisher folk will get an abundant catch when they go fishing due to the fact that the sea would have been replenished. 

It is my prayer that sooner or later, our nation will be re-opened to full operation and we will bounce back more powerfully than before. Let us continue to keep our cool and look up to God in faith, and continue to observe the protocol outline by our leaders. God bless our leaders and all of us. Shalom!"

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