Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s announcement of continued COVID-19 restrictions may not have been the news most Trinidad and Tobago citizens were expecting to hear Saturday.
With the Prime Minister adding another two weeks of such restrictions, it is hardly likely certain sectors of society, especially business owners and service industry workers eager to return to full economic activity, would have been pleased.
However, based on the information divulged at yesterday’s update, it is clear the country is still well off from facilitating a reopening of more activity.
As of Saturday, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram says T&T was averaging 50 new cases per day, which translates to a possibility of at least one death per day. The suitable target is 20 new cases per day – considered a safe level for countries our size.
Still, a few measures were eased, with gatherings increased to 10 people in public and 20 at funerals; the addition of four more daily flights between Trinidad and Tobago and reopening Buccoo Reef and Caroni Swamp tours.
Prime Minister Rowley was also clear about why the continued measures are critical. The Government had to borrow to finance the social activity needed to ease the burden on those severely affected during the first lockdown. This option will not be available going forward and so ensuring there is no second lockdown, a fate encountered by other countries who rushed to return to normalcy, is critical to staving off the economy’s entire collapse.
But this is also why Government must devise a plan to allow hundreds of workers in the bar/restaurant sectors, undoubtedly the most severely affected by the measures, to return to a more workable form of functionality. Indeed, if the entire economy is to ultimately survive, some sectors cannot be kept in abeyance for much longer.
In this regard, we are particularly disturbed by his report of high absenteeism within the public sector, where a 50 per cent rotational structure was implemented to maintain reasonable service to the public.
It is disappointing that the offending workers do not see the significance of their effort to the collective fight to rid the country of the virus. Members of the public who also continue to disobey the public health regulations by not wearing face masks, congregating unnecessarily, not physical distancing or staying at home when feeling ill are also contributing to allowing the virus to multiply daily.
Much has been said of Government’s responsibility in fighting off this pandemic. But the public holds the biggest stake in this activity and it is only through a disciplined approach to obeying the health recommendations that we will be able to return to living with a little less discomfort.
Having said that, the Prime Minister’s analogy of ensuring we do not bite off more than we can chew at this point should be enough of a word for the wise. Lives and livelihoods are at stake and everyone has a contribution to make.