OUR COVER STORY by PETER GREEN
The Coronavirus is nothing to play with. It is not a joke. It is not a thing to be ignored. This is a virus that is capable of wiping out not just large populations but generations of families.
The cavalier manner in which it is spoken locally in relation to our Carnival celebrations shows a lack of responsibility on the part of the Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh, who sees the virus far removed from Trinidad and Tobago and who has posited that the nation-states where citizens are infected, the tourists in those affected countries do not see our country as a destination point for Carnival.
Just last Saturday U.S. health officials confirmed an eighth case of the fast-spreading new coronavirus in the United States in a person who had travelled to China. Don’t American tourists come to Trinidad & Tobago as a destination point for Carnival? The simple answer is “yes” Mr Minister of Health, they come in droves. The latest U.S. patient, who was not identified, is in Massachusetts, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an emailed statement. The person recently returned from Hubei province in central China, the epicentre of the outbreak. No other details were provided.
The flu-like coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in a market that traded illegally in wildlife in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, has so far resulted in 259 deaths in China, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday.
And yet, our Minister of Health’s position is that Carnival 2020 is on. Because “God is a Trini!”
Revelry and economics trump our national health
Now, I am not a messenger of doom and gloom and if I were in Government at this time my position may have been similar but different. Instead, I would have demonstrated a sense of caution just in case the winds change and between now and Carnival a case is identified to put the nation on alert that their festival of revelry still hangs in the balance.
But I get the impression from the Minister that revelry and economics trump our national health and in spite of world opinion and the challenges this virus presents, he fails to understand the meaning of global village and how issues far removed from our geographical position can have a major impact on us, the most southerly isle of the Caribbean.
Only last Thursday, January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Coronavirus outbreak a public emergency of international concern.
Since it was given the power in 2005 to declare international health emergencies, the WHO has made such declarations in five previous situations which include the H1N1 Swine flu in 2009, Poliovirus in 2014, the Ebola and Zika virus outbreaks in 2016 and another Ebola outbreak in
Now it seems as though because these viruses may not have touched us that the declaration regarding the Coronavirus is being treated with a sense of nonchalance and the message our leaders seem to send is the idea that since “God is a Trini” we might be immune from disaster. But this is no ordinary virus.
China has a population of over 1.4 billion people and those figures are from its 2017 population census. According to reports, the whole of China, all of its territories and provinces have been touched by this virus.
The death toll as I write is beyond 260. The number of persons infected is 11,791. The number of persons suspected of being infected is 17,888 though these have not been tested as positive yet and another 102,000 persons are under observation.
At the time of writing, so far twenty-four countries have been affected, having identified infected persons in their communities. The most disturbing news is that the at-risk population, that is most vulnerable, are children and countries with weak healthcare systems and insufficient resources.
Isn’t that a major concern for Trinidad and Tobago whose healthcare system is in shambles and our resources are so low that we cannot even supply pharmaceutical grade medication on a regular and sufficient basis for our infirmed?
There are over 12,000 cases internationally
At this time, there are over 12,000 cases internationally and in the United States of America, the Center for Disease Prevention and Control has announced that there are 8 positive cases and 121 pending.
Whenever there is a public health uncertainty, wise Governments always tend to slightly overreact to ensure that they do not miss a critical issue that could put their citizens in jeopardy. And once you learn a little bit more about the risks and the threats that the public uncertainty poses, you would then take the effective steps which may even mean scaling back. But one’s first position is to keep one’s country safe.
We may criticize President Donald Trump as much as we want but at least he had the sense of presence to establish a task force to address the Coronavirus and this shows a sense of empathy for his people not only within the USA but also in China where planes are being sent to evacuate US citizens.
But we are not hearing that type of concern from our leaders. It is as though we are lagging behind, waiting on the global village to come up with solutions and we are not seeking to join the conversation.
Our borders are not even protected and the joke that people are being tested is not funny anymore when citizens from other countries can waltz into our country undocumented with all kinds of diseases.
Does this Government really care about its citizens?
Even the vids on social media are not even being responded to and this poses an even greater threat to citizens here if we believe that Lysol is the answer to the coronavirus problem.
It is not the Human Coronavirus that is advertised on the Lysol can
This is not the Human Coronavirus that is advertised on the Lysol can. This virus has been identified as 2019-nCoV and is referred to as 2019 Novel Coronavirus which is different from the one on the Lysol can and poses an even more deadly threat.
But this vid on WhatsApp is circulating and many are of the belief that they have the answer and our Minister of Health will not even respond to this folly.
What are we waiting on? For an infected person to show up in our country and spread this infection wiping out thousands of citizens? Therefore because this country is not prepared (and to be honest no country is prepared) but at least conversations are being held with citizens pointing them in the right direction.
This virus, if not checked and checked quickly, has the potential to become a SARS or impact the world like the Bubonic Plague though it is less infectious. But the impact on human life would be grave.
It seems as though this Government has a death wish Trinbagoians. Anything relating to death or dying is trivialized by this Government, and if it continues to act in a manner that suggests that it does not care about our wellbeing, then 2020 may be the year that we need to respond in a definitive manner.
I do not know if one infected person would land on our shores. I really do not know and God may again spare us from this disaster because we still have praying people in our country. But the Government needs to start a conversation, assuring that if it becomes a problem that we have enough face masks for distribution to the population.
They should be educating us on the possible symptoms that we have to look for, advising us on the foods we need to eat to boost our immunities so that we will not become easy prey to this coronavirus.
But it is as though our Government wants us dead.
If we are hit with this virus, what are the plans to quarantine the infected? This is critical because last weekend the Accident and Emergency Unit at the Port of Spain General Hospital (POSGH) was so filled with casualties, the hospital did not have enough beds to take care of the infirmed. So, are we getting ready?
Terrence Deyalsingh needs to begin a conversation with the nation and begin advising us with a best practice approach to protect ourselves from 2019-nCoV, the Novel Coronavirus.