As the Prime Minister announced the first steps to relax a strict lockdown in the battle against an invisible enemy, there is a natural mood of optimism among the population. I express congratulations and gratitude to our leaders, especially the public health officials who directed us through this challenging time thus far. Many times you have been called upon to make difficult decisions and in the face of opposition and disagreements made them. So far, so well.
However, we must not let this euphoria of this moment to trump caution. The 1918 pandemic taught us that subsequent waves of viral threat could be more devastating, and data from other countries highlight a possible spike in cases as persons attempt to revert to a state of normalcy. Until a definitive treatment or vaccine graces humanity, we will have to adjust to a new normal.
The economic and social fallout from these months gone, and ahead is not over. We will have to find innovative ways to cope with this challenge. More than ever, we will have to become servants of society, protecting the vulnerable. We will have to rise as patriots of Trinidad and Tobago and put the country before our ideologies.
Humanity ought not to be striving to return to the old ways. As Climate Change Activist Greta Thunberg said, “there is a lot of talk about returning to ‘normal’ after the COVID-19 outbreak. But normal was a crisis.” I cannot help but agree with her on this issue.
During this lockdown, we saw a few silver linings. Most notably is what occurred globally in the environment. In India, for example, the Himalayas stunned Northern India for the first time with their grandeur seen for the first time in decades. Air quality improved in cities, and rivers cleared up. If returning to normal, means we are going back to our filthy polluting ways, then I am not sure I want this lockdown to end.
We saw unprecedented economic decline hit industry and families. We, however, also saw generosity to help our neighbor, though selfishness and hoarding often clouded this. If we are going to return to our bitter, greedy habits, I am not sure I want this to end. We saw no end to the violence, though we may have forgotten it for some time. If we are going back to the continued loss of regard for life, why would I want this lockdown to end?
But it has to end. For the sake of the poor, the hungry, the children who need an education, industry, and households that require an income, it has to end. And as it ends, we will see if we learned anything from our seclusion.