Port-of-Spain Division police officers conduct an exercise along Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain yesterday as part of the police service effort to inquire reasons for being outside during non-curfew hours in the present State of Emergency.

Hold the line.

Better to be inconvenienced for a short while towards a permanent solution and do what has to be done to get to a place of better defence against the COVID -19 virus as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gave this advice yesterday as he piloted a motion in Parliament to extend the State of Emergency for three months.

It was announced two weeks ago and will run to August. Debate followed the President’s recent proclamation for the SoE.

Rowley detailed the genesis of the pandemic globally and from 2019 when Government began hearing of it . He noted the World Health Organization declared the virus a public health emergency in January 2020 and Government declared COVID-19 a dangerous infectious disease in January 2020 also. It was labelled a pandemic in March.

“And since then all our lives have changed,” he noted.

Rowley said the population had to suppress the infection rate or that would undermine the vaccine programme “and will result in significant hurt to our families, economy and ourselves individually,”

Rowley added, “This is not something we have an option with. We’ve committed ourselves and our financial resources to do what has to be done to fight this fight.

“We’ve committed ourselves and our resources to defend every citizen, old, young or medium, male or female, girl or boy from this COVID virus. We’ve been doing this, holding the line until we can take our country to a level where (the virus) has the potential to become a normal part of human existence but not threatening us with death and destruction.”

He said he believes the population understands what is being done, however, Government understands a certain amount of disruption is taking place and the response to the virus has been disruptive to social and economic life. But Rowley said Government has been encouraging defences.

“It’s more important to be inconvenienced for a short while towards a permanent solution and do what has to be done so as to get to that place of better defence as soon as possible.”

Rowley recalled Italy where so many died that people couldn’t bury their dead. With what occurred elsewhere, T&T had to take action to protect itself. With 1.3m people in T&T and 330,000 others, “outside”, he noted the dangers facing the country and the need for border closure. While those inside would have enjoyed protection, Rowley admitted those outside would have experienced inconvenience.

Tracing from introduction of mask law and T&T’s first COVID death, he noted steps taken to reduce spread but he also admitted: “We relaxed a bit and were not as diligent as we could have been. After low case numbers and deaths, there was the spike after the August general election but the spike was quickly suppressed.”

While the danger was in mixing/movement of people, Rowley said even when Carnival 2021 was cancelled in February, the level of infections was the lowest with the best compliance response . He said it was felt people might have been missing Carnival and were co-operating.

However, Rowley said there were “activities” around in March and authorities had to respond to slow rise of numbers— and if there was no intervention there certainly would have been the kind of traumatic results of large numbers of dead and larger numbers of sick.

Rowley reiterated T&T has to rely on seeking vaccines to reach herd immunity— 65 to 70 per cent of the population, “But we’re not there yet and currently we’re holding the line on infections while working toward a higher level of vaccinations.”

He also reiterated difficulty to get vaccines while countries with more authority and wealth and others took control of production output. Rowley said it was horrible to observe the vast majority of people in low income countries being able to make only small purchases or get gifts—obtaining less than one per cent of vaccines — while a handful of countries took 83 per cent .