A call for stillness is an appeal to the public because “dis’ ting real serious!”
Covid-19 cases and deaths are rising in the Caribbean. Countries like Anguilla, Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago prohibited gatherings by introducing forceful restrictions and business closures.
Authorities call the restrictions a ‘lockdown.’ A word that leads people to believe their fundamental right to freedom is being revoked from them and their families. As Caribbean people, we value the liberty earned from our heritage. For this reason, the negative connotation of a ‘lockdown’ triggered defiance of the regulations from many groups.
So maybe the etymology of ‘lockdown’ is part of the problem. Restrictive messaging and blame-shaming have no place in managing a pandemic. Leaders should be using language that appeals to humanity and evokes an emotional shift to behavioural changes.
Here are two reasons why countries should lean towards “a call to stillness” or some other non-restrictive language in this pandemic.
We have learned from the racial injustice and violence occurring around the world that words matter.
The word lockdown from the Merriam-Webster dictionary first refers to “the confinement of prisoners to their cells for all or most of the day as a temporary security measure.” And about a year and a half ago, this was the only association people had with this word.
In 2020 the complexities of ‘lockdown’ evolved and an update to the dictionary meaning included “a temporary condition imposed due to a pandemic.” Unfortunately, an update to the human mind is not as simple as editing a website. In fact, most people are not aware of the updated meaning of the word ‘lockdown’ which may be the cause of some contention.
A call for stillness avoids restrictive messaging; it is an appeal to common humanity. These words inspire the need for mindfulness and the understanding that we are our brother’s keeper.
According to Merriam-Webster, stillness is “a state of freedom from storm or disturbance.” With SARs-CoV-2 being the storm, the state of freedom messaging promotes mindful actions without an authoritative tone.
More than a lockdown
The emergence of highly transmissible variants provide evidence that more than restrictions are required to slow the spread of the virus.
Recent testing of Covid-19 cases in Trinidad and Tobago confirmed the presence of the P.1 variant (a variant first identified in Brazil). Now, if you decided that all respect for SARs-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus) was lost, this P.1 variant will earn your respect back twofold. Brazil had its first outbreak of cases in 2020. By October of that year, the virus swept the country, infecting about 76% of the population and leading to the complete collapse of the healthcare system. A second wave followed closely in December 2020 and showed a high reinfection rate with the P.1 variant.
The P.1 variant has a sticky exterior making it easy to adhere to surfaces and up to 2.4 times more transmissible than non-P.1 coronavirus. This information proves that we need more than a lockdown at this point. The closure of businesses and prohibition of activities can help slow the spread, but persons need to limit movement in public as much as possible. This includes limited trips to the grocery stores, avoiding visits with friends and family, and reduced encounters with foreign surfaces.
Essentially, the only place a family can be confident is Covid-free is at home, where no one is infected.
Leaders have a difficult task of providing clear and forceful messaging during this time. Unfortunately, there will always be groups that choose to go against restrictions and cause havoc. But the power of language, tone, and delivery should never be underestimated.