The deadly virus will kill both the rich and the poor unless we quickly come together
OUR COVER STORY by PETER GREEN
John Donne, the fifteenth-century poet, first penned the idea of ìFor whom the bell tollsî and in its purest state, this idea suggests that ìbecause we are all part of mankind, any personís death is a loss to every one of us: Any man’s death diminishes us individually because we are involved in man≠kindî so it is incumbent upon us and not just our leaders to make decisions that would result in the survival of humankind.
Our global village stands on the cusp of devastation.
We have reached that point where no longer should we take living for granted because tomorrow is no longer guaranteed in our world filled with disaster, pandemics and environmental degradation and if ever we need to sober up and rethink the future for our generations, that time is now.
Only last Tuesday night I sat listening to the morbid stories from around the world, stories of nations in bondage, stories about the curtailed freedom of the democratic West, yes stories about restricted mobility and I wondered about the future of my country and the destiny of my people.
Already Italy and Spain have virtually shut down and has overtaken China as the nation with the most deaths caused by Covid-19, the seventh member of the Coronavirus family; for three consecutive days, Italy has recorded confirmed Covid-19 deaths in excess of 600 daily.
An impending doomsday
Already the French have instituted a national lockdown and it is only in matters of emergency are citizens allowed to leave their homes; emergencies for the purchase of food and pharmaceuticals with a heavy penalty attached for breaching these orders.
In the USA, California, with its 40 million inhabitants is locked down and the news emanating out of that State is that the Governor anticipates that some 25 million people will be infected with the virus; five other US states are currently under lockdown.
In New York, the State with the largest recorded number of confirmed persons infected with the virus, there is a capacity of only 2 ñ 3 weeks of medical supplies remaining according to Governor Andrew Como. This is not good news because New York is now being regarded as the epicentre for Covid-19 in the USA.
Argentina is on record as being the first South American State to invoke national emergency powers and shut the whole nation down.
These stories reflect an impend≠ing doomsday, a catastrophe that is no longer coming but one that is here with us. While we shared the opinion that it is a vulnerable class which is limited to elderly folk, persons with compromised immunities and pre-existing illnesses who might meet an untimely fate, the multiplier effect of this pandemic shows that it possesses the potential to decimate even healthy communities.
In Trinidad and Tobago, we live with a false hope that the pandemic is with us but only among persons who visited abroad and returned to this country of whom some 20,000 returned in the last three weeks alone with no tests being done on the vast majority of them.
This is one of the most brutal forms of information since the lack of testing fails to position authorities with accurate information concerning the spread of the virus in our beautiful country.
Of course, people are suspicious and some have embraced conspiracy theories that extend as far as anticipating some type of holocaust. This is because they have known people who have been in close proximity to infected persons who are yet to be tested by the powers that be and Ian Alleyneís antics offer us no consolation.
We do understand the dilemma that is facing us with 3000 tests available for the entire Caribbean; but we cannot, simply cannot afford to be left at the mercies of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), because to do so places us at risk and threatens the destruction of communities in our country.
The virus is no respecter of persons
This is not an alarmist position, neither is it one that heralds a gloom and doom reality. Rather it is one that adopts a pragmatic approach in treating with Covid-19, an approach predicated on what is known to the global village from countries which have all but surrendered to the devastating effect of this virus.
We are virtually on a standstill and the only active industry is in the world of science as scholars search for answers to defeat Co≠vid-19 and the Health Industry where the providers assiduously race against time to prevent us from dying.
But as we wait, it is clear that this virus is no respecter of persons, killing both the rich and the poor, infecting persons regardless of their social standing in the community, making sick both the young and the old whether or not they are victims of previous illnesses or not and making a mockery out of us by destroying the ones most precious to each of us.
We are not just threatened because leaders have made decisions which at the time may sound good but in reality, are truly ridiculous. No, we are threatened because we refuse to speak up, we refuse to speak out and for fear of being chastised and ignored and even insulted, we will perish.
It sounds good when the Prime Minister says that we should not assemble in groups of more than 10 and this is to ensure that the practice of social distancing continues to serve as a strategy to restrict the transmission of this virus.
But how can this be implemented when everyday citizens still travel in 25 seater maxis, sitting less than six inches away from each other and not expect possible consequences if an infected person is aboard? How can social distancing be practised when the malls are still kept open all day?
What plans are in place to enforce the regulations and a best practice approach which our leaders are seeking to adopt when so many infractions and breaches take place with regard to social distancing on a daily basis?
We must return to the point of testing because regardless what our leaders attempt to tell us, there are too many first-hand narratives with persons offering experiences of their encounters, for us simply to accept the figures with regard to confirmed cases being declared by the Government.
I am convinced that the State is honest in its reporting because this is not a case where information is being suppressed. On the contrary, we have a condition where information is not being gathered so the numbers we ge≠tare the reported cases of infected persons and that is not enough, we need to widen the net to get the true picture.
What is sad is that we now live in a bubble believing the figures presented. This leads us to drop our guard into believing that all is well in our country until the bubble bursts, people begin to die and pandemonium becomes the order of the day. The Government must begin to act wisely and abnegate a still too cavalier approach, patting themselves on the back and stroking each otherís ego. The Government must adopt a position like the California Governor whose planning is informed by an anticipation of a much larger group of infected persons.
Even if we fall short of the number of infected persons for whom we planned, one thing we will guarantee is that at no time will our health system face the challenge of being overwhelmed.
The Government must not allow its selfishness and its ego to put the nation at risk. The Government must declare a State of Emergency now; this limited lockdown that will be in motion would be covered more efficiently under the State of Emergency.
In addition the Government must establish shelters in place. Use the space under the Grand Stand where there are already some 50 toilets for men and another 50 toilets for women and create a shelter in place as suggested in our issue of last week. A shelter in place is much more than keeping people isolated at home. In reality it means having a safe place fully stocked and equipped, ready for the worst. Such a place will also help to prevent the medical system from being overwhelmed. Lord Baden Powell founded the Boy Scout movement over one hundred years ago and his advice to the Boys Scouts then was that at all times they must BE PREPARED. Such advice is more relevant today than ever before. So, I again urge the government to visit the space under the Grand Stand at the Queens Park Savannah where there are some 100 toilets already in place and set up a shelter.
Similar shelters on a smaller scale can also be established throughout the country.
I am not sure if any member of the Cabinet visited Maracas Bay during this pandemic because if this was done, then the need to invoke emergency powers to safeguard the national community would have already been done; and we would not now be scrambling to enforce a partial shutdown.
Dr Rowley, there is an old saying which suggests that if eventually you know you will have to take a course of action then take it now and spare the nation from further disaster.
Mao Tse Tung, the great Chinese philosopher once said it is only a fool who learns from this own mistakes; the wise man learns from the mistakes of others.
This global pandemic could have been arrested in many societies but like our leaders, they waited too long to interrupt the civil liberties of their people and now they are paying the price for procrastinating; ask Spain and Italy and the people of the USA.
We will all die and yes, the bell will toll even if we act responsibly but the frequency of its chimes will be denied as we make smart decisions and work assiduously for the common good of our people.
Together let us defeat this pandemic by letting out voices be heard and doing the right thing not only for ourselves but also our neighbours.