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Members of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist community today celebrate a hard-won right to practice their religion without fear of discrimination or sanction. But even as they celebrate, they do so under the cloud of COVID-19 restrictions.

Their right to freedom of worship and celebration is curtailed by a disease that has all but brought the world to its proverbial knees, with a rush for vaccines even as new variants emerge.

There is no doubt that the celebrations will be in some way affected, given that health officials, as well as Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, continue to emphasise the need for protocols to be observed.

But we have no doubt that despite the restrictions there will be a celebration for the freedom that came after much trial and tribulation.

Today will also be a red-letter day for this country if all goes as planned, as, after much uncertainty, Trinidad and Tobago expects to receive the first shipment of vaccines from the COVAX facility.

T&T is expecting to get 33,600 doses for the vaccination drive which is scheduled to begin on April 6. First to receive the vaccines will be frontline healthcare workers and those over 60 in the country’s non-communicable diseases clinics in the public healthcare sector, according to Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh.

The number of vaccines arriving, while a drop in the bucket for what is needed for herd immunity, is indeed welcome.

Many citizens are suffering from COVID fatigue and the incident last Thursday with the Attorney General himself captured without a mask and not observing protocols, brought home the reality of just what a tiresome burden has been placed on all of us to protect not just ourselves but the wider community and our families.

That the AG, who crafts the regulations which impose fines and restrictions on the population, could have let his guard down signals that even as a lawmaker and someone in authority, he too is growing tired and forgetting the importance of leading by example.

One can only hope that in their celebrations today, members of the Baptist faith, as difficult as it would be, do not follow the example of the AG and those who gathered at MovieTowne over the weekend but heed the call to be sensible and follow the protocols.

Letting our guards down will spell disaster for us, vaccines or no vaccines. We just have to look at the examples of other countries who, despite inoculating citizens, continue to reel under the impact wrought by the disaster of COVID-19.

This is not a time to be lax or forget the dangers which lie ahead, whether we spend time in worship or with our families.

COVID-19 does not discriminate. It does not know race, colour, creed, or class, nor is it concerned with political affiliation. The virus is the great equaliser and we are all at risk. It is up to us to do what is required and ensure we stay safe and protect our loved ones.

Happy Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day.