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Improvise, adapt, overcome

Today, like every day, I woke up thinking of a number of my family members: my grandmother in St Eustatius, my aunts and uncles in Tortola, my cousins in St Kitts, my friends in Barbados, Cayman Islands and St Lucia.

I did nothing more or less than each one of you has done.

As a people, no matter which island we may have been born in or now reside in, we have friends and family throughout the Caribbean region and the diaspora.

Likewise, you, too, have woken up worrying and concerned about the wellbeing of your family and friends scattered around this beautiful archipelago.

Caribbean people are best known for our warmth, friendliness and genuine humanity. Without a doubt, we are probably the most social creatures on this earth. We sing with, we dance with, we argue, we cuss out and we hug, each other on a daily, some would say, hourly, basis.

Covid-19 has robbed us of the ability to physically touch and hug and kiss each other.

Well, except for our significant others.

As Caribbean people, we have always learnt how to quickly adapt to any given set of circumstances in order to not only survive but to thrive.

Over the past two months or so, we have, individually and collectively, done some or all of the following:

• Taken in those who have lost their jobs

• Started homeschooling our children

• Commenced feeding/delivery programmes for seniors and those less fortunate

• Become a bit less materialistic

• Started planting home gardens

• Committed to doing more of those long lists of house painting/repairs

• More home cooking

• More book/Kindle reading

On a corporate community/private-sector level, we have seen the following take place:

• Companies committing money and personnel to sponsoring and manning kitchens to feed the seniors and less fortunate

• Retention of staff by adapting to working from home wherever possible

• Banks giving grace periods ranging from three to six months for mortgage payments

• The adoption of online grocery purchasing, with options for home delivery

• More and more smaller businesses offering home delivery services

On a political/governmental level, there has had to be quick adaptation to the new landscape.

In February, there were three days of meetings held in Barbados for the heads of governments for all Caricom member states.

With most, if not all, Caribbean islands dependent on tourism, the regional health organisation, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, gave a presentation on protocols that would be activated and followed to ensure regional uniformity.

Over the past few weeks and months, every island in the region has followed these protocols for testing, the shutting of borders, semi-curfews and full curfews.

Carpha also spoke of the increased threat as cruise ships moved from one island to the next.

With no cruise or international air visitors, there has been a knock-on effect in the hospitality industries around the Caribbean. Regional governments have had to now implement contingency plans to ensure their people do not face increased hardships.

Drastic measures such as:

• Seeking loan facilities to assist those who have suddenly become jobless

• Having to transition many ministries into remote/work-from-home ministries

• Ceasing all government capital projects

• Closing of magistrate and court services

• Mobilisation of reserve police and military units

• House of Assembly sessions moved to larger facilities to ensure social-distancing of parliamentarians

There is not one government in the region that will escape unscathed from Covid-19.

Tourism, being our financial life blood, is on indefinite hold and many businesses that pay into government coffers are on the brink of closing for good.

Yet, through it all, the Overseas Territories in particular, have gotten that much closer than before.

Over the past decade or so, many of our citizens, our friends and families, have migrated to Britain to attend school or to take up residence. Many of them, for obvious reasons during these uncertain times, wish to return home to their respective islands.

Our respective governors, premiers and cabinets worked together with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to facilitate an “air bridge” flight from London to Bermuda, then onward to the Cayman Islands on Monday.

That flight also brought needed testing kits and pharmaceuticals to the OTs.

In the next column, we will discuss the realistic possibilities and solutions. What's next? Where do we go from here?

In closing, we now have the convenience of social-media tools such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Zoom, which enable us to contact our loved ones, near and far, instantaneously.

If ever there was a time to use these services, it is now.

Happy Easter to you and your families. Stay safe, stay united, #stayathome.

Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at cfamous@plp.bm

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Published April 09, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 09, 2020 at 8:47 am)

Improvise, adapt, overcome

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