The small Caribbean island of St. Vincent has been continuously rocked by eruptions and explosions from La Soufrière volcano which began last Friday. Plumes of ash several miles high, hazardous smoke turning day into night, and relentless lava flows have combined to force 16,000 people to evacuate from their homes. Tropical paradise has quickly become a disaster zone, but only those who’ve received their coronavirus vaccines may have the chance to escape.
As events unfolded, cruise operators stepped in to offer assistance and evacuate residents from the island. In almost any other time in history this would have been a celebratory example of human kindness, but during the mass hysteria of the coronavirus panic we have instead been offered a look at the medically bifurcated society of vaccinated and unvaccinated coming into view.
Speaking at a news conference on Sunday, the prime minster, Ralph Gonsalves confirmed that only those who’ve received their coronavirus vaccine residents would be allowed to board the departing ships. With only roughly 10,000 of the 100,000-plus population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines vaccinated, this requirement precludes tens of thousands of people from potentially leaving.
This is what a having vaccine passport looks like. There will surely be many other iterations as the weeks and months go by but make no mistake, they are here.
These terms were set by neighboring nations taking in the fleeing Vincentians according to the prime minister. While the cruise operators involved insist they aren’t making this requirement, it is seemingly only a matter of time before they join the ranks of Qantas Airlines and Silversea Cruises who plan on mandating that passengers and staff be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus before they’re allowed entry.
As with so many issues in the past year the health and well-being of people seems to be the lowest of priorities despite there being a so-called global pandemic going on. Volcanic eruptions bring with them destructive explosions, toxic air, noxious ash, and unstoppable lava flows which combine to make a more formidable scenario than a virus with a nearly 99.9% survival rate. La Soufrière has claimed the lives of many islanders in previous eruptions in 1812 and 1902-3 and it’s not unthinkable that this may happen once again. If getting the people of St. Vincent to safety was really the priority then their coronavirus vaccine status would not preclude them from boarding a ship.
The proposition of vaccine passports being the ticket to “return to life as normal” has entered the mainstream conversation. Pundits and politicians promise that once these become a reality the public can enjoy everything from bars and restaurants to travel and concerts. These largely benign activities allow the state’s carrot and stick routine to continue without many people questioning the darker implications of needing experimental injections to take part in society. As we’re watching in this small Caribbean nation, failure to comply may already truly be a matter of life and death.
When we look back on history we tend to think poorly of those who turned their back on their fellow man in his hour of need. The actions of those who helped runaway slaves, refugees, defectors, and outcasts are what we hold up as examples of bravery and courage. We are quickly approaching the time when the world is going to have to choose its course once again and ask how history will look back upon those who let the unvaccinated suffer.