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The new reality of further COVID-19 restrictions kicked in yesterday, as Government continues its battle against the latest wave. These new measures, while still not as severe as the first lockdown during last year’s first wave, will undoubtedly be Trinidad and Tobago and the world’s continued new normal.

However, just like the situation which led to the current restrictions, it is society’s behaviour that will determine whether we are thrown into chaos or get a chance to see a semblance of life before COVID-19 hit last year.

In that regard, citizens must understand the latest measures are not meant to be punitive but to save lives. One of the most inane arguments during periods of restrictions has been that the Government somehow has an axe to grind with some sectors of the society. On the contrary, it is often society itself to blame for the situations in which decisions that affect normal freedoms are taken.

We only have to look at two global examples to see how different attitudes make a difference. India’s initial disciplined approach to tackling the pandemic was followed by a period of complacency, which has now, unfortunately, led to a situation in which its health system is overwhelmed and hundreds are dying daily. On the other hand, China, whose Wuhan village was the virus’ epicentre, continues to maintain a disciplined approach to fighting the pandemic and are reaping the benefits.

If we were not sure about the Ministry of Health’s warning about the gravity of the situation on Monday, Trinidad and Tobago’s dire situation was confirmed yesterday by a Bloomberg report highlighting the soaring rates of newly-recorded infections in the past month. T&T was rated fifth on this list behind Laos, Nepal, Thailand and Bhutan, in that order, with Suriname, Cambodia, Fiji and India rounding out the nine countries fighting to survive COVID’s scourge.

Return now to behaviours of some citizens following Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s announcement of the first rollback of COVID health protocols last week. Their response was to flock to street vending sites in their hundreds to purchase the food they once sourced at restaurants, doing so without following the very health protocols deemed necessary to prevent the virus’ spread. Clearly, what transpired over the weekend were the super-spreader events we have been trying to prevent. What is required now is the population’s support in understanding how this virus is transmitted and taking the steps to ensure it is not given the breeding ground to multiply.

Having said that, it is clear the only way out of this scenario is for a successful vaccination programme. Unfortunately, Government did not put early mechanisms for sourcing vaccines in place and T&T has fallen victim to the supply and demand chaos. We hope, therefore, that the Government will rectify this issue and work with the private sector if it presents an option for sourcing additional vaccines needed to reach herd immunity quickly. Neither the loss of lives if the current trend continues nor another shutdown of the economy can be sustained by T&T at this time.