March 11 marked the first anniversary of the World Health Organisation’s declaration of the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought a year of extraordinary challenges for this territory and the rest of the world.
The handling of the crisis doubtlessly will be debated for a long time to come. But to observe the anniversary, we wish to praise the community members who have become heroes in the Virgin Islands during the past year.
They are many. Some have helped in a professional capacity simply by continuing to show up for work; others have assisted vulnerable neighbours and other at-risk residents even while they themselves were unemployed or otherwise suffering.
At the top of the list are the territory’s frontline workers. From health care professionals to border officers to security guards, they have risked their own safety to protect the health of others at a time when such work was thankless at best.
Then there are the territory’s leaders, elected and otherwise. Premier Andrew Fahie and Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone in particular have been required to make extraordinarily difficult decisions that were guaranteed to draw intense criticism from segments of a population struggling to balance safety and economic sustainability.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet met 94 times times last year compared to 42 in 2019 as leaders worked to balance the demands of the pandemic with other public business.
The non-profit sector has risen to the challenge as well. Organisations that provided invaluable services during the pandemic include the Family Support Network, the BVI Red Cross, VI Search and Rescue, Green VI, dozens of churches and many others.
Independent volunteers also assisted, especially during the lockdowns.
Teachers have put in countless hours devising ways to offer remote classes to help the territory’s children get through the pandemic. Other public officers have tackled similar challenges.
In the private sector, many businesses have thought outside the box and made remarkable sacrifices in order to stay open and keep employees on board even when they were operating on a shoestring — or even losing money.
Other pandemic heroes are too numerous to name in this small space. Indeed, the great majority of residents and visitors have behaved heroically over the past year if only by diligently following Covid-19 procedures and protocols — an endeavour that was often as difficult as it was necessary.
Considering that the pandemic arrived while the territory was still struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma, the community’s collective response has been remarkable indeed.
Moving forward, such heroism will need to continue. Even though the vaccine has arrived and infection numbers are dropping in much of the world, the territory is by no means out of the woods.
New Covid-19 variants pose a very real threat. Meanwhile, thousands of residents remain unemployed as the tourism season draws to a close, and the full extent of the economic damage likely won’t be understood for months if not years.
On this anniversary, then, we call on everyone to thank the VI’s many pandemic heroes while redoubling efforts to emulate them.
With everyone on board, the territory can emerge from the pandemic stronger than it was before.