Over the weekend a Beaconite hiked from Hannah all the way up the ghut to Sage Mountain National Park, which was certainly the most adventurous hike he’s taken in the Virgin Islands. To ascend the ghut, he and his hiking buddies had to scale a couple steep rock walls and trudge through thick bush that had already been partially cleared by the leader of the group, thwacking away with a machete. The hike started, however, on a rather depressing note. Early in the walk, they passed what several group members, including a veterinarian, believed could be a kind of holding facility for dogs used in dog fights. The dogs were confined to claustrophobic cages made out of pallets, some stacked one on top of the other, and were viciously barking and shaking their confinements as the group walked by. The Beaconite hopes the dogs are not in fact being used for fighting. Besides being a morally reprehensible form of entertainment and business, dog fighting can be dangerous if one of the canines gets loose. Just a few weeks ago, on New Year’s Day, a woman had to be hospitalised after getting attacked by dogs near Virgin Gorda’s Taddy Bay International Airport. Of course, there’s no way to know if those dogs or the ones the Beaconite passed during his hike were used for fighting, but either way, angry violent dogs are products of an abusive culture that should not be tolerated.
Jan. 19 was the one-year anniversary of Governor Gus Jaspert appointing Sir Gary Hickinbottom to lead the commission of inquiry, which got a Beaconite thinking about what this milestone means. It’s no overstatement to say the experience has been eye-opening for residents of the Virgin Islands. For a time, the live hearings could be heard almost everywhere one went, and bars were abuzz with conversation about the latest findings. What makes this investigation stand out among others in history is the exciting opportunity residents now have for civic engagement. Typically, one of the most impactful actions citizens can take to affect the leadership of a country or territory is to vote in an election, but their options for affecting change during a term can be more limited. But VI community members now have more tools at their disposal with the drafting of a National Sustainable Development Plan, the pending review of the Constitution, and more. The COI dug deep into the territory’s history, but the reporter hopes the people who avidly watched and debated the proceedings put even more energy into helping shape the future they deserve.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation issued a statement this week joining the World Health Organisation in calling for blanket travel bans and border closures to be lifted worldwide. At a meeting earlier this month, the WHO warned that such bans discourage “transparent and rapid reporting” of Covid-19 “variants of concern.” The Virgin Islands, being as dependent on tourism as it is, has learned the hard way that draconian travel bans didn’t prevent Covid-19 from reaching VI shores and significantly harmed the economy. Gradually, travel restrictions here have already become considerably less onerous. Even when the omicron variant emerged in South Africa, the VI did not react by slamming its gates closed to South Africans, as many countries, including the United States, did without success. However, the Beaconite would like to remind VI leaders to bear these considerations in mind the next time a variant of concern, or even another virus, rears its ugly head. Panicked reactions rarely help and can often hurt.
A Beaconite is happy to see tourism getting back on its feet despite the omicron surge. Covid-19 cases are trending downwards and seem likely to continue dropping. If so, the territory may be able to push through as it did when the delta variant hit last summer. The territory doesn’t seem too far behind other places in the world in experiencing the delta and the omicron variants. When the pandemic first hit, it was a while before the Virgin Islands recorded its first few cases. While travel and tourism seem to kickstart the spread, the territory can’t afford to take more hits to its economy. The reporter hopes there are no more surprises or other variants popping up from Covid-19, and that life may resume as it once was sooner rather than later.