Now that the 2020 election is over, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet have been sworn in and the Opposition leader has been appointed, it’s now on to more serious business. We can’t over-emphasise how much more important that has become with over 1,000 active COVID-19 and 153 reported yesterday.
No matter what spin Ministry of Health and Government officials put on this, the fact of the matter is that suddenly the cases are skyrocketing and without urgent intervention, we will reach the point where the health system can collapse.
Already, health facilities identified for patients are bursting at their seams as the numbers rise. Yesterday, PAHO offered its assistance to the Government in expanding laboratory capacity, including at the primary care level.
When Parliament meets on Friday therefore, we hope they will quickly dispense with the promised legislation to make mask-wearing mandatory. This is a small step but a huge contributor to curbing the virus’ spread and one that cannot be taken lightly.
But this is not the only area the Government will need to focus on, as it is clear this alone will not take us out of COVID’s reach.
The obvious strain on the parallel health care system and the burden on the health workers responsible for saving the lives of the hundreds inflicted with the virus is now a major issue too.
There is no way, given the limited number of health professionals with the ability to treat the virus within our system and the limited number of facilities to treat the more critically ill positive patients, we can continue at the current pace with which the virus is spreading.
So, even if the Government legislates mask-wearing, it is clear there are other areas that need addressing. The major one is clearly reckless human behaviour.
The media has been inundated in recent weeks with cases of the public clearly flouting the COVID regulations, including at several businesses and even in people’s private properties. What this suggests is that if John Public cannot regulate itself in the fight against the virus, it may be the time to give individuals the teeth to enforce the regulations in a more serious manner.
In this regard, it may be time to call out the Defence Force to work alongside the T&T Police Service and health officials to be the watchdog over individuals flouting health regulations, including breaking quarantines and gathering in large numbers.
There is no doubt T&T is in a bad space. The reality facing us today is far from what it was months ago when we were close to flattening the curb. The state must now do everything in its power to ensure the population adheres to all protocols and guidelines required to stop the pandemic’s spread locally.
And if the public cannot be depended upon to cooperate in this exercise, then the Government may have no choice but to be a big brother to ensure full compliance. T&T is now at a crossroads where too many lives are at stake to do otherwise.