People wait in line outside the National Insurance Board (NIB) in San Fernando yesterday, to apply for salary relief grants.

More than 273,000 people have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19, but the number of people who have lost their jobs as a result of measures aimed at preventing the spread of the virus is in the millions.

On Friday, the US Bureau of Labour Statistics released a report that claimed the United States was experiencing its highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression that began in 1929.

Its findings stated that unemployment rose to 14.7 per cent, with close to 20.5 million citizens out of a job in April. But, while the US can put the extent of the socio-economic fallout from COVID-19 in numbers, here in Trinidad and Tobago we have been unable to so far.

According to sociologist Dr Roy McCree, it is clear that socio-economic issues like unemployment, poverty and physical inactivity have been worsened by COVID-19.

“What we need to do, as part of the recovery process, is to find out the extent to which those problems have been exacerbated,” the senior research fellow at the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine Campus said.

To accomplish this, he said, it is imperative that data, related to the issue, is gathered quickly and comprehensively.

This data is essential, according to Dr McCree, to formulate an effective public policy response.

“This is a fundamental requirement. It’s not just about re-opening borders. It’s not just about being able to go to the beach or going back to the lifestyle we were accustomed to, but it’s also about looking at the fallout,” Dr McCree said.

Despite the fallout happening on several economic and social levels, he said he isn’t hearing any conversations about the gathering of data to paint a full picture. He claimed that there are certain parts of the country, especially in remote areas, that have been affected more than others.

Even before COVID-19, remote areas, like Toco and Sangre Grande, were experiencing increases in unemployment and poverty, he added.

He said they are in a pickle.

“We have to move quickly to collect data, particularly in those areas that are not easily accessible.”

The Vice President of the Caribbean Sociological Association acknowledged that data collection takes time and money.