The end is in sight.

As an exceedingly difficult year winds down, we hope the Virgin Islands will use this holiday season to reflect on the lessons of 2020 while preparing for what we hope will be a much brighter 2021.

Challenges were many over the past 12 months as the pandemic brought life-and-death health concerns to nearly every corner of the world. Here, Premier Andrew Fahie’s government rightly acted quickly and forcefully by closing the borders and implementing tight restrictions of movement.

Though there were hiccups, these measures worked remarkably well overall: In spite of one tragic death, the territory has seen a relatively small number of confirmed Covid-19 cases. The total to date — 80 in a population of about 30,000 — comes to about 267 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the United States has confirmed more than 5,000 per 100,000 people, the United Kingdom more than 2,800.

In spite of this success, the pandemic nevertheless decimated the territory’s tourism industry and other aspects of the economy, a situation that has been greatly exacerbated by the government’s ham-fisted management of the border reopening, the economic stimulus package, and some aspects of previous lockdowns.

As a result of the economic turmoil, thousands of people lost jobs or saw their salaries cut dramatically. Even now, food pantries are overwhelmed, and many residents are still struggling to put food on the table as the holiday season approaches.

In the coming weeks, then, the entire community should redouble efforts to ensure that everyone is okay.

We have no doubt that residents are up to the task. Like Hurricane Irma in 2017, the pandemic has highlighted the fortitude and resilience of the people of this territory. Health workers, border officers, grocery store employees, and many others have rolled up their sleeves and done their duty at great personal risk in recent months.

Residents also have assisted their neighbours by organising food drives and other volunteer assistance on a large scale.

In the coming weeks, such perseverance will continue to be crucial in helping to lead the territory out of the pandemic into happier times.

We fervently hope that the New Year will mark a turning point. Covid-19 vaccinations are already being administered in the US and UK, and UK leaders have said that overseas territories will be included as well.

Soon enough, then, we hope that life will begin returning to something resembling normalcy.

Nevertheless, the territory is by no means out of the woods, and managing vaccinations and planning for a post-Covid future will require careful planning and hard work.

The road ahead is long — with economic woes likely to continue well into 2021 — but this holiday season is an opportune time for everyone to recommit to travelling it with compassion, grace and perseverance.

We wish everyone a wonderful holiday and a very happy New Year.

 


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