Health Minister Casanni Laville
Health Minister Casanni Laville

Margaret Esprit-Sobers, a mother of three who had been diligently following COVID-19 safety protocols since the pandemic's inception, tells The Sun that she began to let down her guard following the World Health Organization's (WHO) declaration earlier this year that the COVID-19 pandemic was no longer classified as a global health emergency.

As vaccination rose and case numbers fell, Margaret, like many others, felt relieved and assumed that the worst was behind us.

Unfortunately, her guarded demeanour began to crumble as she attended more occasions sans masks and frequently socialised with friends and family. Life was finally back to normal, she thought.

However, the virus had other plans. In a sudden twist of fate, in June, she tested positive for COVID-19, and it was not long until her entire household of five had the virus.

Morris Benjamin had already battled COVID-19 in the early phases of the pandemic. His symptoms were mild then, but the experience was horrific, leaving him with a persistent phobia of the illness. He believed he was immune and that life would return to normal after the pandemic.

When his symptoms resurfaced two weeks ago, his optimism turned to dread.

Fatigue, body aches, and shortness of breath reappeared, and a later COVID-19 test verified his greatest fears: he had gotten the virus again.

No confirmation

Emboldened by the government's recent lifting of the public health emergency, Dominicans, who have tried to be rule-following pandemic citizens for the past three summers, are abandoning precautions as the coronavirus fades into a background threat.

Officials are no longer warning of scary new variants. Free tests are harder to come by, social distancing is now a thing of the past and mask-wearing and hand sanitising seem all but gone.

However, reports of individuals getting COVID-19 reinfections have surfaced recently, which numerous healthcare providers believe should be concerning.

"Despite vaccination efforts and declining case numbers in some regions, the virus remains a persistent threat," a senior healthcare worker told The Sun. "Continued vigilance is necessary. While restrictions may ease in response to declining cases, it is vital to remain vigilant and adapt to the evolving situation."

When contacted, a source from the Ministry of Health who sought anonymity indicated that no one knows how widespread the coronavirus is due to a decline in data collecting. However, the individual corroborated claims of an increase in cases locally.

Calls to the phone of Cassani Laville, the minister of health, were unanswered, and he has yet to respond to messages requesting comment on the situation.

WHO data

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced in a new data report released on August 3, 2023, that over one million new COVID-19 cases and over 3100 deaths were documented globally in the last 28 days (3 to July 30 2023).

They point out that, whereas five WHO areas reported decreases in cases and deaths, the Western Pacific Region reported an increase in both cases and deaths.

According to the research, as of July 30 2023, there were over 768 million verified illnesses and over 6.9 million deaths worldwide.

WHO's data on Dominica needs to be updated. The latest, an October 2022 figure, showed that Dominica had recorded 15,760 cases and 74 deaths (cumulative).

In the region, Dr. Christopher Tufton, Jamaica's Health and Welfare Minister, recently stated that the island is facing a surge in positive coronavirus infections, asking citizens not to relax their guard.

State officials in New York are encouraging residents to be cautious due to increased COVID-19 hospitalisations across the state.

According to data from August 2, hospital admissions increased by 22% compared to the previous week, with more than 100 persons admitted to hospitals statewide each day, according to the New York State Department of Health in a news release.

At the same time, reported cases increased by 55% over the previous week, averaging roughly 824 new reported cases each day, according to the announcement.

More reactions and warnings

Esprit-Sobers and Benjamin hope their recent experiences will serve as a warning that, while the epidemic may have appeared to be easing, the virus has not vanished.

However, only some are alarmed by the rise in cases and the likelihood of another lockdown.

Julien Toussaint, who claims to have contracted during last year's World Creole Music Festival (WCMF), the virus had promised to refrain from attending huge gatherings until he is "1000 per cent certain" that the pandemic is over. However, less than a year later, although he is not yet convinced we are clear, he has changed his heart and resumed attending numerous events.

He says that letting go of the fear of the virus, which almost cost him his life, has made him happier.

"This virus lingered for quite some time in my emotional equation, and in hindsight, I think it took up unnecessary space," he told The Sun. "I don't think I can no longer put my life on hold, as I have had to do for the past three years. We only have one life to live. So I'm enjoying mine this summer."

-By Ronda Luke