It’s been one week since the General Election and one would hope a new government will be sworn in today. But even more important is the commitment made last Saturday by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that within 48 hours, the country would have been told of measures put in place to deal with citizens who fail to wear masks amid the growing COVID-19 cases and deaths in Trinidad and Tobago.

Citizens have been widely ignoring the call to wear masks in public in the face of a seemingly unrelenting pandemic.

How many more must die before we realise COVID-19 is moving across the country and no one is immune? The map produced by the Ministry of Health officials yesterday showing the spread should be a wake-up call. Citizens need to treat this as though every person they come into contact with either has the virus or has been in contact with someone who has it.

What is also a reality is that the tests being done are just not enough. This is something this newspaper has said before and we stand by it when one works out the percentage of tests done to the population. As it stands now, the official figures yesterday showed there are twelve people dead and 588 people positive.

But who is to say that it is not worse?

On April 5, just before students were to write the SEA exams, there were 105 cases – a number that had remained stable for months. There was a jump in July and by the time the August 20 election day came, the cases spiked to 281. From August 10 to today, there has been a 220-plus case increase in the one week from election day to today. We are now hearing all kinds of explanations about the significant jump in the figures. In fact, one is left to wonder whether the country was actually being told the truth about the state of COVID in the pre-election period.

Be that as it may, the fact is that today we are in a place no one envisaged we would have been. The health facilities are bursting at the seams, frontline workers are under pressure, persons under quarantine in state facilities are complaining and the situation seems almost out of the control. This is far removed from when health officials had boasted they were doing a great job keeping the numbers down and near flattening the curve.

The reality is that COVID-19 still has the potential to wreak havoc on this country. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that what is now a dire situation does not get worse. Lives are at stake. The economy is at stake. Jobs are at stake.

Citizens need to take every precaution to protect themselves and their loved ones. Go out only if absolutely necessary and if you do, ensure you are well protected, wear your mask, social distance and wash your hands. All we can do is protect ourselves, pray and hope a vaccine is found and that this country does not have to shut down another time.

We just cannot afford it.