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Dr David Bratt

The news last week was not all that good. Forbes magazine reported an upsurge in depression and suicide among American workers during the pandemic and local politicians began to come down with Covid-19. We finally got a new but old government despite the opposition leader’s attempts to delay the process which only continued her ineffective opposition for the past five years. Some wag commented that despite that and perhaps the worst run political campaign in our history, where she seemed to bleed votes every time she spoke, the PNM barely held on to government and won the popular vote by 13, 000 in a lowish turnout.

The new Cabinet doesn’t look very different but Mrs. Beckles-Robinson and Dr. Browne are back from the cold. All that is needed is for Mr. Mariano Browne to make an appearance and the Cabinet will have a solid look to it. That however, is doubtful.

The new/old government should be aware that they cannot spend the next five years blaming the previous government for not being able to move the country forward.

The Ministry of National Security has to stop talking about Trinis who have got caught outside the country as if they are refugees. They have a right to live in the land where they were born. Could we also stop treating them like criminals when they arrive by stuffing them into buses, driven by men (or women) in HazMat suits and surrounded by heavily armed police and soldiers? They have all been shown to be Covid-19 negative and most are pensioners or highly motivated students. They are not going to run off into the cane fields surrounding Piarco and contaminate the little bit of sugar cane left.

The Ministry of Health has to stop blaming unspecified “foreigners” for the spread of Covid-19 and concentrate on improving testing, including those “foreigners”. If it takes more than 48 hours for a test to be done, the test ain’t doing what it’s supposed to be doing. There’s no excuse for delays of up to three weeks as we are now seeing. People need to be up and out at work as much as possible. You all had lots of time to fine tune the system. Perhaps cutting back on the Press Conferences might give you more time to work on the important things? Like telling us what proportion of the tests done daily are positive. That stat appears to be important if we want to open schools.

Re – the opening of schools two studies were published recently suggesting that children can transmit the virus as easily as adults. Despite hard evidence from countries that have reopened schools properly, that child to adult transmission is, in practical terms, poor, if confirmed, that could mean the end of traditional school until we control transmission and outfit the schools properly.

The teachers that I speak to in both the public and the private sector keep saying that the Ministry of Education has done little to guide and prepare them for reopening and seem to be expecting the staff to come up with ideas and money. It will cost each school tens of thousands of dollars with no guarantee that their ideas will work. Some work has been done to prepare for online classes but that does not take into account the thousands of children with no access to computers or wifi. Again, the Ministry has had lots of time to plan. Perhaps the new Minister, with youth on her side, can bring some energy, enthusiasm and above all, creative ideas, to the Ministry.

The Government also has to rethink its “all or nothing” Covid-19 strategy. There does not seem to be any nuance in their response to the outbreaks. It’s either black or white! Ooops, that is not a racial statement although it will not make a difference to the professors of colour who see everything through the prism of race. You don’t have to lock down the entire country every three months. You don’t have to pass a law forcing people to wear masks because 0.1% of the population refuses to do so especially when you allowed people to prance in the streets during the election campaign. It’s a question of managing risk. Outdoors is safer than indoors. Sports is safer than liming. Work is better than sleep, especially for our mental and economic health.

As usual, best of wishes. We are in for a hard ride. The government takes over a country in deep, deep gobar with decisions about health and the educational system and not least, the economy, needed immediately or as the saying goes, “Our arse is grass and the IMF lawnmower is coming!”