After six months under the State of Emergency (SoE), which was declared in the hope of reducing COVID-19 infections and death, the sad reality facing Trinidad and Tobago is that we are now back in the same space we were last May, with the parallel healthcare system overloaded with cases and struggling to keep those people alive.

With the SoE now done, citizens’ movement is no longer restricted and there is a sense of an impending return to some semblance of normalcy for many sectors of business, industry and even social activity.

Yesterday, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh told citizens they now have a greater responsibility for reducing the transmission of the virus. Indeed, while everyone has the opportunity to ‘free up’, our lives are now in each others’ hands. In fact, at no point in time in our history has being our brother’s keeper been more important. The vaccinated and unvaccinated have an equal burden in preventing the Delta variant from ravaging the country.

According to data presented by Minister Deyalsingh, at the start of the SoE on May 15, there was a peak of 472 patients in the parallel system, followed by a decrease. Around July 10, there was an average occupancy rate of 40 per cent and cases eventually dropped to a manageable 318, which was maintained for 113 days until September 29, when there was an increase they have not been able to control since.

The public, in particular those who refused to vaccinate and adjust their lifestyles to reduce risk, did not heed the numerous warnings. So now, we have an unimaginable spike that is seeing us race towards 2,000 deaths and infections, with a new record 781 new cases reported yesterday, that have led to even children being warded in intensive care units.

It is inconceivable that in this situation, there are still more than 600,000 people yet to be vaccinated. What is really the problem? Yesterday, Minister Deyalsingh also revealed that of the 1.2 million vaccine doses that had been administered, there were only 10 adverse reactions, including blood clots and myocarditis. Weigh this with the fact that of the under 1,900 people who have died, only 56 were vaccinated while 97 per cent were unvaccinated.

With less than 50 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, COVID danger continues to face us. With the health authorities having done all they can to provide an extra layer of protection to citizens, we need to accept that it is the delinquency of those who are playing Russian roulette with their lives and those of others that poses the biggest danger to all of society.

We fully support the Prime Minister’s position that T&T cannot be locked down again because of those who refuse vaccines. Yet, in a scenario where we are spoiled for vaccine choice, it will ultimately be the vaccinated who will have a fighting chance to live to tell their story another day. The reality as of today is clear. The ultimate question, however, is where do you want to be when we can finally say we have control of this virus?