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Editorial

As of yesterday, the number of samples which tested positive at public and private facilities in T&T stood at 767 and the number of active cases were 615.

These are startling statistics given that just under a month ago, this country had boasted that it had flattened the COVID-19 curve.

Several countries across the globe have gone the way of making wearing masks mandatory. This has been proven to be effective in curbing the virus’ spread. Among the countries in our part of the world where it’s now mandatory to wear a mask in a public space are Jamaica and Venezuela.

The Dr Keith Rowley government, in its last incarnation and up to the week before the new government took the oath of office, seemed not to want to go the route of making mask-wearing mandatory. It was on the Saturday after the General Election that the Prime Minister gave the first hint it was something his government would consider. He had promised the country that the Attorney General would be asked to look at the issue. When asked about this on Wednesday during the swearing-in of the Cabinet, AG Faris Al-Rawi said, “The Cabinet will consider a particular course of action for ticketable offences to go alongside arrestable offences so we could go with fixed penalty notices et cetera.”

By AG Al-Rawi’s own admission, this would require parliamentary action. It would be impractical, the AG said, to make the offence an arrestable one under the public health ordinance.

The country is literally in a state of crisis with the community spread of this virus. So is AG Al-Rawi telling us that while Rome is burning we just have to sit tight and hold on?

It is hard to believe that a measure proven successful in curbing the virus’ spread in many countries can be so difficult to implement. But where there’s a will there must be a way.

Surely, if a business place can deny entry to someone not wearing a mask, there must be a way for the state to ensure citizens do what is required. This country can ill-afford for the virus to get out of hand. Community spread has now taken root.

In June of this year, the World Health Organisation noted that in light of evolving evidence, governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult.

With community spread here, none of us know who has the virus. We can leave nothing to chance.

The Government too must operate as though everyone has it and must do what is necessary to ensure every measure that can curb spread is taken.

No one is saying masks alone will stop the spread of the virus, which has claimed 12 lives locally and almost 800,000 globally, but it will certainly be beneficial in any comprehensive approach to fighting COVID-19.

Making masks mandatory must be a priority. So too must efforts to find, isolate, test, trace and quarantine every contact.

Getting COVID smart and COVID serious must be a priority for everyone.