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In life, Hema Ragoo lived quietly in Princes Town, but her death shot her into the spotlight after she selflessly devoted her time and energy to nurse her COVID-stricken sister back to health before eventually contracting the virus and losing her own life.

The 36-year-old woman not only cared for her severely ill sister but was the anchor for her family as other relatives became COVID-positive in a tumultuous couple of months for them.

The love and, more significantly, the sacrifice young Hema made is a reality for many families across the country when an entire household, or many within a household, contracts the virus.

Although best efforts are made to isolate in separate rooms, many family members are often left to monitor and offer care for their ill loved ones, valiantly putting themselves in the path of a virus that knows no bounds or limits. Truth be told, this is because there are no other options with hospital occupancy levels still alarmingly high. It also calls attention to the level of treatment required for COVID patients while in home quarantine, since it is clear it cannot be expected that they just remain in a room alone.

But Hema’s death should not only highlight the struggles families face when COVID strikes. It should serve as a wake-up call for those who have become immune to the dire situation those with COVID-19 face and the pain experienced by families who have lost loved ones in the battle against the pandemic.

The new normal seems to be that every day at 4 pm, the now-familiar question is “What are the numbers?” with little regard for the actual people they represent.

It seems the dread and worry the population once had for the country’s COVID situation is eroding and giving way to indifference.

But behind every death reported is a soul that has been lost, a family mourning the loss of a mother, father, brother, sister or child.

Take, for example, the Ramkalawan family. Not only did a mother lose her son Nigel but her husband Premnath as well.

And what about the Rawlins sisters, Georgette and Karen? How do these families move on without their loved ones, or can they?

For Hema’s family, her sister Selina told this media house that Hema said she would rather die for her to live. And while her words came to pass, it’s her family that is now left to pick up the pieces after losing their true hero.

Hema’s story, as well as many others, are not to be forgotten. Their lives were snatched away with little to no warning. In some cases, family members not only have to deal with the emotional aspects of the deaths but the financial implications as well because many sole breadwinners have also been lost.

It is time we refocus on what COVID is doing to this country and the people who make up this nation and not just the numbers or the lockdown. In honour of all 556 lives lost, society must thus redouble its efforts to bring the COVID curb down by obeying the laws to wash hands regularly, social distance and stay home when feeling ill.