The evolving Covid situation is getting more and more complicated and confusing all over the world, that’s the undeniable reality. The only constants are that all countries must scale up their vaccination to reach at least 60-70% of the population as soon as possible, that maintaining safe distance and masking up must be rigorously adhered to along with use of hand sanitiser, and that contact tracing/quarantine/isolation must be pursued until further notice. These are the absolute basics, which are to be enforced legally and breaches are to be sanctioned by special provisions in the legal armamentarium.
National authorities are left to work out the details based on these principles according to their specific given contexts and their resources, ranging from financial means to the deployment of the logistics required to meet these objectives based on expert recommendations.
The health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic continue to be dire, and the worse thing is that there is no way of predicting a timeline for return to a situation of less apprehension and more confidence in the future, which remains ever more uncertain.
Governments have had to take gambles based on shifting premises about prioritizing health or the economy, in what is a real Catch-22 situation. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Here it has been decided to open up to tourists arrivals with protocols worked out so as to minimize any potential risk of contamination or infection emanating from them. They will initially be quarantined in the hotels where they will be staying, and it is expected and hoped that they will appreciate the concerns of the authorities and stick to the rules.
On the other hand, given the rise in the number of local cases and the total number of active cases as at 18 July (696), it is becoming more and more financially unsustainable for government to continue with the practice of quarantining people in the hotels. Besides, these are going to be needed to accommodate the tourists. It makes sense, therefore, to envisage the self-isolation of any cases that need it, provide they have received their two doses of vaccine. Except for those who for various reasons may not be able to self-isolate at home, when government will have to find a solution.
The larger, concerning issue is that it seems that several better resourced countries, for example Singapore and the UK, are coming round to the conclusion that Covid-19 is here to stay, and that it is not possible to continue with the kind of severe restrictions that have been applied so far. In any case here, except for opening up to tourists until now, much of economic activity had already been underway, It can also be said that by and large people have accepted that they must act more responsibly and wherever one goes in public places it is salutary to note that there is observance of the sanitary measures. We have had to deplore certain religious and social gatherings where people have flouted the norms, but the fact that among themselves there have been Covid cases in large numbers should alert others not to enact repeat performances of a similar nature.
The lesson that must be stressed over and over again is that there is no substitute for adherence to sanitary norms and to responsible behaviour. For the sake of oneself and everybody.
* Published in print edition on 20 July 2021
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