Timing, the saying goes, is everything. If that is the case, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s statement about the reason for the current COVID-19 spike in Parliament on Monday is curious. During heated debate on the current disturbing trend of cases and deaths, the Prime Minister pointed fingers at the United National Congress for organising candlelight and prayer vigils in February for kidnapping/murder victim Andrea Bharatt.
His line of argument was clear — these events were ill-advised because they attracted crowds, giving the virus hosts to spread during a pandemic. There were several vigils then because, quite frankly, citizens were emotionally charged over another issue that plagues society — crime. Whether they should have been allowed is debatable. But who would have had the political will to stop that movement? In fact, while PM Rowley attempted to throw blame at the Opposition, even some of his Cabinet members engaged in those vigils because they understood the pulse of the nation and significance of connecting with them.
However, the epidemiological data provided over the period in question by Ministry of Health officials does not support the Prime Minister’s argument. In fact, it shows that other events, including last year’s General Elections, Christmas season and more recently Easter activity, resulted in corresponding reported spikes in cases.
In each case, given what the science says about gatherings, why did the Prime Minister not make fervent statements urging citizens against the undesirable behaviour exhibited, especially since the information suggests health officials were closely monitoring them and red flags were raised.
But the same can be said for President Paula-Mae Weekes. During Sunday’s National Day of Prayer, Her Excellency was quick to say how disheartened she was that citizens’ indisciplined behaviour had led to a State of Emergency. But, as head of state, shouldn’t President Weekes have elucidated her concern via language meant to inspire the population, rather than demean them into action? And surely, had her Excellency been so concerned, should she not have called for action before now, via an address to the nation, as opposed to watching it unfold, gain momentum and spiral out of control?
Of course, this brings us to question whether the medical experts who deliver the COVID-19 updates are truly giving the public as sound advice as they should be. Surely, they too should have sounded sterner warnings against these activities, as opposed to shrouding their messages in medical speak and politically correct tones, thus allowing the real warnings to pass over the average citizen’s head.
In any event, all of this is now in T&T’s rear-view mirror. So the question is really whether the MPs chosen to run this country will finally sit at the same table against the virus. This media house hopes they make the transition now so society can reap the benefit. It is also incomprehensible that citizens have not yet got the message that self-preservation is within their control only. Lives and the economy are at stake but it is not too late to change our approach.