The beginning of an end to the COVID-19 pandemic?
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A MAJORITY of the COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine rules have been lifted in Guyana, signalling a return to some semblance of normalcy – or at least, what we knew before March 2020. Certainly, this does not signal that the COVID-19 pandemic is over, or that the world has rid itself of the deadly virus, but it appears to be the beginning of an end to the pandemic.

A few days ago, on March 11, we observed the second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. The same day the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the spread of the novel coronavirus a pandemic, Guyana recorded its first COVID-19 infection and death.

At the time, I was a first-year university student, attending face-to-face classes in Trinidad and Tobago. And when Trinidad recorded its first case on March 12, I vividly remember the fear taking over me. I never imagined spending the next nine months in lockdown conditions in this foreign country and each day, I thought about what the end of the pandemic would look like.

I imagined I would get to return to face-to-face classes and activities in about a year. When I was forced to relocate from my original hall of residence on campus, I packed away some tinned foods with January 2022 expiry dates in the storage room because I believed that by then, the pandemic would be over and things would return to how they once were.

Perhaps that was wishful thinking because here we are, in March 2022, still unsure of when the pandemic will end. Fortunately, countries everywhere – not just Guyana or Trinidad – are relaxing long-standing COVID-19 restrictions and rules. This is meant to restore a greater level of economic activity and certainly, provide us with some semblance of normalcy.

In Guyana, restrictions on social gatherings and activities were recently removed; vaccination requirements to enter most buildings have been discarded. The Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony has been quoted as stating that the relaxation of these measures is justified by Guyana’s low number of new infections and high vaccination rates.

Because these restrictions and requirements have been core components of Guyana’s public health measures instituted to counter the pandemic’s impact, a relaxation of these signals to me, that we are inching towards the end of the pandemic.

While the national measures have been relaxed, let me hasten to add that the local authorities have encouraged people to maintain some precautions. The mask mandate, for example, has been dropped, but people are strongly encouraged to continue wearing their masks – especially if in a public space. Vaccination requirements for travel also remain.

I, personally, will continue to wear my mask religiously. Though I am confident of the Sputnik V and Johnson & Johnson “jabs” that I have been vaccinated with, I still believe that precautions such as mask-wearing would be necessary to protect myself from contracting the virus.

And on that note, I cannot overemphasise just how crucial it is for people to get vaccinated. With the relaxation of these measures that were originally instituted to slow the spread of the virus and protect people, it is almost as though a layer of protection we were covered with has been removed.

As such, I believe it is incumbent upon each of us to take as many precautions as possible. Fortunately for all of us, vaccines are a tested and proven medical tool that helps protect us from experiencing the more severe or life-threatening symptoms of COVID-19. Becoming fully vaccinated and boosted where possible, in my opinion, is one of the safest, surest ways of protecting myself and the people around me.

As someone immersed in reporting on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 pandemic, I can confidently state that research and officials agree that vaccination is also a key tool in helping us exit this pandemic. With increasing vaccination rates, there is a greater level of protection within the population. Resultantly, fewer people may become hospitalised or die, and the spread of the virus may likely have a much weaker impact on people if contracted.

While it appears as though we (at least, us here in Guyana) are preparing to exit the pandemic or the pandemic circumstances we have been adhering to, I think each of us must take as many precautions as possible. With all of us able to congregate and hang out, we have to be keenly focused on the risks to which we may be exposing ourselves. And, we have to take as many precautions as possible in everything we do.

If you would like to connect with me to discuss this column or any of my previous works, feel free to email me at vish14ragobeer@gmail.com

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