Nine days into 2022, the same issues that were seminal to the country’s performance on all fronts, social, political, and economic in 2021 remain with us. The world is in the third year of Covid-19 pandemic, a global problem which remains at the top of this year’s agenda. New strains are testing the world’s ability to respond at every level. The key defensive measures remain the same; vaccination, sanitizing, social distancing measures including the wearing of masks. Their efficacy depends on enforcement.
Most countries rely on border controls to prevent the unvaccinated from entering. In Australia, the revocation of Novak Djokovic’s visa and his vaccine exemption illustrate the deepening divide on vaccination as a defensive measure. In many countries, mandatory vaccination policies are now key objectives, individual liberty versus the need to protect the many. The key lessons of the last two years are international collaboration, the dedication of researchers and health care workers and the willingness of local and national communities to cooperate.
Globally the math is clear. Vaccination may not be a perfect solution, but it reduces the severity of the disease and reduces the risk of death if one is infected. Of the 3,000 odd deaths in TT, less than 200 have been vaccinated meaning that more than 93% of the dead were unvaccinated. This statistic ought to be telling enough, yet vaccine hesitancy remains high. The official statistics indicate that only 48.1% of the population are fully vaccinated placing TT amongst the countries with the lowest vaccination rates.
The uniformed services are amongst those agencies with the lowest vaccination rates. Yet these services are in the frontline of enforcing regulations dealing with behavioral health issues. It was noteworthy that amongst the two hundred plus “party boat” revelers “processed” were several “off-duty” policemen. This suggests that vaccine hesitancy might also be a factor limiting the efficacy of behavioral enforcement.
It has been widely accepted that ending the pandemic is the key prerequisite to restoring jobs, livelihoods, and economic well-being. Lower vaccination rates are associated with lower economic growth or a decline in economic activity. Citizens cannot rely on the energy sector’s performance to reverse the government’s continuing deficits. Indeed, the recent decline in natural gas prices suggest that the surge was temporary, and relief will not come from that direction. Therefore, the country needs to be healthy to address the economic challenges which confront us.
There are signals that an inflationary spiral has begun to increase the cost of living. It is not clear if this is temporary. What is clear is that Government has no capacity to limit the impact of inflation. Therefore, the economic challenges will be difficult for everyone and they cannot be solved simply by increased wage demands if the economy is not performing. Much depends on the goodwill and good sense of the unions and government in their discussions in coming days. The country cannot afford for either to fail.