Government acted decisively on the COVID-19 outbreak yesterday when Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that effective today, all schools and universities will be closed for one week in the first instance. In doing so, it has followed other Caribbean countries, the United States and others who have taken similar action.

This is not a panic decision but rather one aimed at helping to minimise the spread of the virus.

The move, while commendable, now raises some challenges for parents who have to find alternative means of caring for their children. Many of the times, parents depend on elderly relatives to monitor their children until they get home from work.

Given need now for the national community to be vigilant on the virus, one would hope that employers would recognise it is a situation that requires understanding and it may well be that some employees will need to work from home.

Meanwhile, there has been no word from the Minister of Labour on what protocols her ministry is advising employers to utilise in the current scenario, especially as it relates to persons who may have to voluntarily quarantine themselves.

In addressing the issue, the PM urged managers and business owners to implement realistic sick leave policies and be flexible with workplace arrangements, recommending working from home as a good option.

In doing so, the PM cautioned that every employer must be concerned about what would happen. Employees should also heed the PM’s caution that “this is not a pass to skylark and evade your responsibility and play smart as an employee.”

Rowley also urged that people stop the panic buying. That is easier said than done. Indeed, all over the world there is panic and people are rushing to get supplies due to the uncertainty of this ever-changing scenario.

Over the past few days, the Ministers of Health and National Security have been keeping the country abreast of what is happening. We understand this is a fluid situation and that things are changing faster than anyone expected. That is the nature of the COVID-19 beast the world is dealing with.

It is in light of this that we add our voice to that of the Prime Minister, in continuing to urge people to be responsible in following the guidelines to protect yourself and your families. We all have friends, family or know someone who lives in the US, UK, Canada and many of the countries where the virus has been found. It is not business as usual. Let us, therefore, heed the call of the Prime Minister and confront the challenge we face with collective responsibility. This is not a time for politics but for each of us to do what we have to do to protect everyone within T&T’s borders.