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Chaotic scenes erupted across the country yesterday as it seemed everyone was in a rush to get things done. Hours after the Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith boasted of the success of the 19-hour curfew imposed, which significantly restricted citizens’ movements on the Indian Arrival Day holiday on Monday, chaotic scenes erupted across the country as people rushed to get everything done before the next 19-hour curfew kicks in for the Corpus Christi holiday on Thursday.
The imposition of these restrictions at month’s end when traditionally hundreds of pensioners line up to get their cheques and many flock to the banks, supermarkets, and other establishments to get their business done, resulted in exactly what the authorities have been hoping would not happen—congregations of the worst kind.
There was a large congregation of crowds at TTPost, where many lined up to collect grants and cheques and the picture was the same at commercial banks. In one instance, scores of pensioners lined the street in San Fernando waiting for a bank to open, unaware that the bank was opening its doors at 10 am and not the usual 8 am.
The chaos on the streets from San Fernando to Arima and Port-of-Spain speaks to action being taken with no clear plan.
The lack of communication on many issues created an untenable situation. Here was a case with scores of elderly people, the high-risk group, sitting on the pavement or standing so close to each other that made it easy for this airborne virus to be transmitted.
Common sense should tell those in authority that when decisions are taken to swiftly make changes that affect business at the end of the month, chaos would reign.
It is heartbreaking to see what the elderly must go through month after month to collect their pension cheques, but it seems there was additional pressure this month-end because salary relief grants were also being paid at TTPost.
There also seemed to be a significantly reduced police presence on the roads, although officers were on hand to control some of the crowds at the larger gatherings.
We know the Commissioner must have a reason for deciding on the number of officers on duty yesterday after the success of the 19-hour curfew. Some of his men might have been suffering from not just burnout but the constant change of play in this COVID ball game in which the government holds the key. Yesterday marked the start of the President’s proclamation for army personnel to join the police. Their public presence was not significant.
Maybe after what transpired yesterday, things would be put in place today to have a more anti-COVID approach because surely large numbers of people gathering in one space to conduct business constitute congregating and this is against the regulations.
The country needs a better plan to deal with virus control other than simply a lockdown. Does the science or the officials who follow the science ever think about the impact on the very humans their science is supposed to protect? Does much thought go into the process or is it that those who follow the science and make the decisions have no idea of what the average person goes through monthly?
We note that the Minister of Public Utilities has promised to look into the matter and perhaps the Health Minister should do the same. If the men drinking on the Promenade brought a tear to his eye, think about what may happen if he sees the real pain citizens face regularly.