Statistics show that globally, more than 10 million people have been tested positive for the novel coronavirus aka Covid-19; more than half a million people have died and currently, there are more than 4 million active cases. Yet we continue to pussyfoot on the decision to lift the lockdown in Trinidad and Tobago.
We are not learning. The Chinese have experienced a new outbreak in Beijing near the Xinfadi wholesale food market. In an attempt to stop another major outbreak, China has reversed the easing of restrictions and upgraded Beijing to a Level II emergency, which means that flights have been cancelled and schools have been told to shut their doors once again. Entire communities near the Xinfadi market have been closed off and residents have been banned from leaving their homes.
It is as though we are isolated from what is taking place in the global village, specifically the resurgence of a new spike on the curve that the United States thought had flattened; the alarming spread of the virus in Russia, Brazil, India and even in Mexico, not too far from our doorstep.
Jamaica and Haiti continue to report new cases and according to international reports, the figures in the Caribbean region over the past month or so have revealed a growth spurt which should be of concern to all.
These are quite alarming and should raise a red flag for our Government. However, basking in the sunshine of platitudes rained upon it, the Rowley administration believes that it is the Covid-19 oracle and that the decisions it makes in these circumstances will always be perfect.
It has therefore decided to lift the lockdown with few exceptions and not monitor the enforcement of social distancing, hand sanitizing and the wearing of masks all of which were used to good effect in keeping the virus under control.
The decisions reflect a kind of hypocrisy
The decisions made seem to reflect a kind of hypocrisy which suggests that our leaders are not being informed by the threat this virus continues to pose; but rather an eerie sense of politics driven by an impending General Election later this year.
One cannot understand how decisions were taken about which sector should be opened and which should remain closed; where to apply social distancing as a critical tool and where to ease it because maybe the threat does not exist. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago, this Rowley administration, continues to confuse us.
We want the Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh, to explain to us on what grounds the decision was taken to legitimise the number of persons gathered from 5 to 10 and now to 25 and how these numbers are supposed to work.
The reason for asking these questions has to do with the threat that is posed to the travelling public, since maxis and taxis are now allowed to travel with full capacity, with spaces no more than six inches between passengers. It may have been some time since Deyalsingh and his bourgeoisie friends have travelled by public transport. I get that. All that it takes is a glimpse of a maxi or a taxi passing by and the threat for spreading this contagious virus is real.
On what grounds, therefore, did the Prime Minister and his Cabinet choose to allow public transport to operate at full capacity when the issue of social distancing cannot be observed?
The flip side to this anomaly
The flip side to this anomaly is the threat to bar owners to reverse the status and keep bars closed if social distancing is not practised. One is at a greater risk of getting Covid-19 seated in an air-conditioned maxi taxi or public transport travelling from Port of Spain to Sangre Grande to Arima or San Fernando or to anywhere else than seated in a bar with more space and less crowded per square foot.
How can the Prime Minister threaten to close bars but allow public transport to operate at full capacity? Whose logic was this? Who is it that believed that limited social distancing in a bar provides a greater threat than no social distancing in public transport? Was it the Honourable Terrence Deyalsingh, the Minister of Health?
In the first place, it is difficult to understand the reason behind the decision to allow the bars to open for persons to assemble for recreational drinking. It is as though the Government is seeking an opportunity for a full-blown attack of Covid-19 on our population, only to obtain an opportunity to suspend the General Election.
Another decision which continues to befuddle the masses is the limitations applied to the opening of churches across the country. They make no sense. Why is it that in places of worship there is an austere demand for social distancing that is not required in public transport and that seems to be limited in bars and restaurants?
Why is it that in places of worship there is an age limit appended for those over 60 but there is no age limit for citizens who wish to travel in public transport, go hang out in a bar and have a drink or visit a restaurant for a sumptuous meal? Is the Rowley administration anti-God, anti-religion, and against places of worship?
In restaurants, people are allowed to enter with or without masks, allowed to order with or without masks, sit and talk with each other with or without masks and friends come across to greet each other shaking hands and hugging regardless of age or gender, so why have we placed limitations on places of worship?
What is further mind-boggling is that in public transport, bars and restaurants there are no time restrictions imposed on commuters or customers but initially in churches there was a limit of one hour per service. It raises questions concerning how decisions are made, what the Government takes into consideration and whether these decisions are in the best interest of the national community or a sectoral few.
And where is the enforcement, Dr Rowley?
If this were China, we would have reversed the lockdown until citizens understood that the seriousness of this calamity facing us is not over since it has been observed that generally people are no longer wearing masks. Even within businesses, there is no social distancing and people have reported that at some outlets, business owners are providing water but no soap for hand sanitizing. These are just a few of the obvious anomalies that seem to threaten the health of the nation.
The mixed messages that are sent by persons in power are an even graver threat and it is not until we get serious and abandon our God-is-a-Trini attitude will we act in ways that are not inimical to our national interest.
The lifting of the lockdown is filled with hypocrisies, sectoral interests and in some occasions, it contains bias that works against a level playing field for the upcoming General Election.
We must be confident that our Government has our interests, our health and our personal development at heart, and would nurture an environment that would allow every one of us the opportunity to grow, as well as the opportunity, to experience good health.
We are not fools and neither should we be taken for fools. The lifting of these restrictions has raised further questions on Government’s decision-making processes which we cannot ignore as we face the polls later this year.