By MALCOLM STRACHAN
YESTERDAY marked a moment when things seemed to get back to normal for many Bahamians.
It was Palm Sunday, and the church parades were out once more, making their way around the streets near places of worship, waving palm leaves in the air.
There was also the news that churches were allowed to have services at maximum capacity again.
There was a caution with it, that physical distancing was still required – a challenge for some places of worship that might not have room for both physical distancing and 100% attendance. That feels like something not quite thought through.
But as I stood at church yesterday alongside a bolstered congregation size, it certainly felt like a transition from the old to the new was taking place – fitting that the countdown to Easter marks such an occasion.
Is this the end of the crisis? Or the calm at the eye of the storm?
Last week, the Pan American Health Organisation urged caution when it came to rolling back public health measures, pointing to other countries where there has been a surge of cases.
PAHO director Carissa Etienne pointed to cases of the new Omicron variant being reported in South America and said “time and time again, we’ve seen how the infection dynamics in Europe are mirrored here (in the region) just a few weeks later”.
She added: “We cannot ignore the risk of further COVID-19 surges.”
We do not know yet if that new variant is here in The Bahamas yet, although samples have been sent to Panama to test for it. However, cases remain low at present – and people have long been ready for some of those measures to lift.
As for our government, Health Minister Dr Michael Darville said they are watching carefully to see what happens next.
He said last week: “We’re watching the cases very closely. We’re watching the numbers in The Bahamas and we are concerned and we have meetings to determine what our next steps will be.
“We’re always in preparation mode. It’s our job to get on top of things before they get out of hand and so I can assure you that the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the EOC, we’re watching this very closely and if we have to move, we will.”
Elsewhere, other signs of normal daily life seem to have resumed. Children are largely back in the classrooms now, and with that goes parents calling one another to arrange play dates for youngsters who have been separated from one another so long. The excitement to see on young faces as they get to do what kids have always done, go and play with their friends, is a joy to see.
Even if this is just a lull between waves, it is a welcome one.
There are still things we can do, of course, to try to keep this state of affairs going. Just because there might not be rules as stringently imposed, for example, doesn’t mean you can’t keep following the good sense measures such as wearing masks, keeping your distance and using sanitiser.
That’s not so much a restriction as it is good courtesy. As a parent, I know the number of times a bug comes home from school and spreads easily, so knowing my children are back in the classroom, I keep wearing a mask and keep my distance so if they have unwittingly brought it home and spread it to me, I don’t pass it on to those around me. It’s being safe for the sake of others.
Then of course there are vaccinations – we’re still behind the curve a little compared to other countries in getting vaccinated, and while this lull may make it seem less urgent, it really is oone of the best means of slowing things down if the virus returns.
In the meantime, let’s make the most of this return to normality. It will be especially good next week to stand with fellow churchgoers on Easter Sunday, taking our precautions but comfortable that the number of cases remains so low.
Our world has not been the same these past two years, but this is a good moment – and we should enjoy it.