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The dawn of 2022 is upon us in Trinidad and Tobago. As we look towards the coming days and months with anticipation, excitement and resolve to march forward in hope, we must look back on the year that was—2021—reflecting on all that occurred.

And there was quite a lot that dominated the headlines and dictated how we responded, provoking much emotion nationwide.

Chief among them has been the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aside from the State of Emergency, curfew, restrictions and lengthy back and forth debate about the vaccines, the virus led to a devastating loss of life locally with over 2,600 people dying in 2021 alone.

For the loved ones left behind, how does the nation inspire them to look towards this new year with hope?

What can be said to them as they hold the memories of their relatives dear, while at the same time seeking a way to ensure their deaths were not in vain?

How, too, can this country encourage the unvaccinated and those who have been vociferous with their opposition to the vaccines, to turn the corner?

This new year presents a golden opportunity for political leaders—those in the seat of governance and others aspiring to hold the reins of power someday—to join forces and truly mount a battle against COVID-19.

In 2022, politicians need to begin anew and resist the temptation to continue the futile fingerpointing and blame game.

The two major political parties collectively garnered over 600,000 votes in the last general election. Imagine if they were to encourage people on the fence regarding vaccinations and those opposed, to get vaccinated. Then, these people in turn spread the word and motivate others to take the jab, the country could quickly reach herd immunity and perhaps more deaths and grief could be prevented this year.

The more people who are vaccinated, the less chance there is of COVID-19 variants emerging and the greater the chance of the virus finally coming to end.

But politicians are not the only ones who need to rally together this new year to change the trajectory of the pandemic and the overall state of affairs in the country. Church leaders, union leaders, the heads of non-profits and non-governmental organisations must also mobilise and work in unison to get the message across to citizens to trust the science surrounding vaccines.

All over the world, it is clear the unvaccinated are the ones dying and most affected by COVID-19.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the evidence is clear as well.

It is time for the pattern to shift in the country if we are indeed to have a happy new year.