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Three days into the new year and the scourge of deaths caused by the COVID-19 virus continues without an end in sight.

As of yesterday, health officials reported 2,936 had died from the virus in T&T. There is no doubt this figure will continue to rise, as would the number of cases. Already the Ministry of Health said it is bracing for the post-Christmas holiday spike in COVID cases. Yesterday active cases stood at 15,183.

T&T is not alone in the battle against COVID. The world is facing similar problems to us, chief of which is the lack of interest by thousands in not getting the vaccine.

On Sunday, this country lost one of its beloved artistes Kenny J to COVID-19. His daughter said he was fully vaccinated. He himself was one of those who joined the national choir in an effort to encourage citizens to get vaccinated. His message “do not hesitate to vaccinate today.”

Sadly he has passed, and our condolences go out to his family. But his message must not be forgotten. Like the true Trini soldier that he was, who loved his parang, music and his country, he shared a compelling message which is easily found on social media and Youtube. Citizens often don’t listen to the politicians and this newspaper has made the point before that the same message from the same health officials is no longer resonating. It is people like Kenny J, SuperBlue, Machel Montano, Terri Lyons, Chalkdust, Cro Cro and others in the artform who people pay attention to.

It is, therefore, difficult to believe that in a country so rich with cultural icons and ambassadors that the Ministry of Health started 2022 without a shift in their thinking or messaging.

A video done by David Rudder, in which he spoke about the Polio vaccine saving his life, is being widely shared even among some in ministerial office. But should not this video have sparked a new way of thinking to get citizens who continue to be hesitant to get vaccinated?

Yesterday, the Premier of Ontario Doug Ford announced that all schools in Canada’s most populous province will be shut down and move to online learning because of a record number of coronavirus infections fuelled by the ultra-contagious Omicron variant. Ford also announced the closure of indoor dining, gyms and cinemas.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the country’s health system will remain under strain for weeks amid the current surge in coronavirus infections, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant sent Britain’s daily new caseload soaring over Christmas and the New Year, with 157,758 infections reported for England and Scotland and 42 deaths in England alone.

The story is the same across the world. Cases are rising and yesterday the top medical adviser in the US, Dr Anthony Fauci urged Americans to get vaccinated and for those who are already vaccinated to get their booster shots. Fauci is concerned that the Omicron variant is overwhelming the health care system and causing a “major disruption” on other essential services, including the police service.

In Trinidad and Tobago, everyone should be aware of the stress placed on our already overburdened frontline workers, especially those doctors and nurses who have been doing yeoman service in running the health sector over the past two years and counting.

COVID has brought many challenges from families losing loved ones, many have lost their jobs due to business closures and lockdowns implemented last year, our children have lost their social interaction skills having to stay at home and interface with a computer for their online classes, our health workers are exhausted. There is no telling how and when this will end.

What we do know is that this virus will continue to mutate if people are not vaccinated.

Vaccines offer strong protection from serious illness, even if they don’t always prevent a mild infection.

As David Rudder put it, a vaccine saved his life, who knows a vaccine can save yours also.

This battle can be won, but it requires each of us doing our part.