Tuesday, August 24, 2021


The small print added to the State of Calamity in Guatemala, via a rather tedious public announcement on Saturday evening, included provisions for penalising any 'publicity' deemed to be geared towards the spreading of panic. Vague enough to be used in ways that it shouldn't, you might surmise. 

A more thoughtful administration might also have considered discouraging the promotion of activity likely to lead to the polar opposite of panic, carefree gregariousness. 

I don't want to sound like a total kill joy here, but the current restrictions require a sacrifice from almost everybody. The existing models suggest Guatemala will be reporting in excess of 200 deaths per day by Halloween — if nothing changes — and this week our local state-run hospital reported itself to be chocka

In such circumstances it is easier to suck up the fact that I cannot walk my dog in the deserted street outside my house after 10pm. But pardon my resentment if local hospitality businesses are actively promoting irresponsible social mingling earlier in the evening, often with freebies, at the same time this blanket curfew is in place. 

I understand that they have a basic need, if not a right, to make a living. But active publicity is a different thing, as we see already in the case of harmful products like cigarettes or with any advertising directed at vulnerable groups like children. 

And in the end it could be self-defeating, as the way we are going right now we could well see another more draconian ley seca imposed from 6pm before the wet season is through. 

And then nobody will be able to buy even a can of Modelo along with their paracetamol at Fenix, and we will all be moaning even more about government heavy-handedness

What we need right now are more targeted restrictions which aim to limit the obvious spreading opportunities. We are told that 50-60% of the spread is coming from unnecessary social interaction, but it would be useful to know how that breaks down. How much of this is 'in public' for example, at bars, at churches and so on. 

England went all out with a straightforward cap on the numbers of people who could meet both indoors and out and enforced it. I cannot see that working here, but surely it is not beyond the authorities in Guatemala to actively discourage events featuring large-ish gatherings of people who could use the excuse of consumption to remove their masks, particularly those that deliberately suck in out-of-towners? 

And instead of sending in pick-up loads of men and women in black boots once things are in full swing, a set of measures to stifle the publicity would be a good place to start. 

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