T&T is teetering on a COVID-19 precipice averting our eyes from the almost 1,000 body bags waiting for our leader to say, step back, save your lives.
Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way.
The Government has made mistakes, messed up with the pandemic initially, was careless, the health sector was overwhelmed, and the initial rollout was disorganised, people queued needlessly, the elderly suffered in the rain, spreading the virus, and there was no public awareness campaign. We were forced into a lockdown that made people poorer, even destitute.
Step back. You may see hafts of lights piercing that heavy cement cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the 800,000 World Health Organization-approved Sinopharm vaccines safely here, and the Minister of Health's laudable target to vaccinate 60 per cent of our adult population, at the rate of 20-25,000 people daily till September in mass vaccination sites and health centres.
Catch yourself. If we hesitate too long with vaccines, we will fall, and as a small island state, we will be crushed by a virus that has left 4.1 million people dead, including ours. We will see more businesses shutting down, more people lying and dying in COVID health facilities, more destitution.
Last week, local companies moved to vaccinate their workers, citing the Government's 'Vaccinate to Operate' mantra and the need to "ensure safe workplaces," many employees kicked up a fuss, citing human rights and personal reasons for NOT taking the vaccine.
Labour Minister Stephen Mc Clashie has reportedly promised that the Industrial Relations Advisory Committee (IRAC) will present a report on the issue on Monday.
Even as the IRAC deliberates on the worker's rights, how it will balance this with the human rights of the people most likely to succumb to the virus, the chronic disease sufferer–(we have among the highest rates globally)–the obese and the elderly.
Does an unvaccinated person have the right to pass on a deadly virus to a stranger? If the law protects innocent people from gun-toting people, why can't the law protect citizens from unvaccinated people who may be carrying something worse than a gun–passing on a virus that grows exponentially to dozens, maybe hundreds of others, killing people they may never meet.
Whatever the weapon, be it a knife or an invisible virus that is killing, it's manslaughter, the Government should move to protect its citizens. Those who don't want to vaccinate could exercise their free will and stay home.
France has done it. Made vaccines mandatory. It's the only way. Last Tuesday, The Guardian (UK) reported that French President Emmanuel Macron announced that after July 21, 2021, "anyone wanting to visit a theatre, cinema, sports venue or festival that had an audience of more than 50 people would need to show a health pass proving they were either fully vaccinated or had tested negative." The president made the vaccine pass mandatory in "bars, cafes, restaurants, shopping centres, hospitals, long-distance trains and planes from 1 August." He made the vaccine mandatory for "health workers, retirement home staff and all others working with vulnerable people, with 'sanctions' for those not fully vaccinated by September."
Following this announcement in France (the most vaccine-hesitant nation in Europe), 926,000 people, most under 35, booked jabs online at the rate of 20,000 per minute.
Macron's strategy worked for those who refuse to be vaccinated, citing a plethora of vague, unsupported unscientific bizarre reasons ranging from pronouncing the vaccine luciferesque to believing a mass conspiracy theory where some mysterious powers at the top have drummed up a fake virus and fake vaccine.
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia reports that vaccines have eradicated smallpox (a disease that had once killed up to 30 per cent of its victims and left others scarred or blind)–eliminated polio, controlled mumps, dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease), and malaria, among others.
Now we can stay here, in our PJs and zoom worktops ( those who still have jobs and work from home) frozen about the future, knowing our nationals are among the 4.1 million dead globally, our people among the 114 million globally who have lost jobs, our hearts heavy like lead about the spectre of the Delta and other variant blazing through the glove from India, to the US and the UK.
Or we can be true true Trinis, with survival in our blood and an unquenchable thirst for life, remember we have solid backs and arms that hug tight and feet that can tap even to a distant tune even amidst sorrow and death. We can understand the cards we've been dealt and choose life.