The Government and many citizens continue to blame our inability to bring our Covid-19 numbers down on Trinis being too indisciplined.
But that is not a strategy. That’s just identifying a problem.
After the problem is identified, then we must craft a strategy or solution (that doesn’t involve lockdown).
We’ve been moaning about Trinis being “too harden” for an entire year and if that were an actual Covid-19 strategy, we would not be where we are today.
T&T has kept its borders closed for 13 months, so we should not have the high infection rates we are currently experiencing. T&T should be a Covid-free bubble by now, or close to it.
Here are just a few things I believe we need to consider as part of an actual strategy to keep our Covid-19 numbers down.
• Better protection of our maritime borders. This requires urgent attention!
• Launch a nationwide, multi-pronged public education campaign meant to achieve behavioural change.
(A public education campaign is more than just regular news conferences.)
We need to hammer people on the head with Covid-19 messaging... both online and offline... on billboards, buses, buildings, at transport hubs, in the markets, at the malls, via TV, radio, newspapers, the mic men, community and religious leaders, etc.
We can also use our awesome Carnival characters like the blue devils and jab jab (with pitchforks and whips) in high-traffic areas to remind citizens to wear their masks properly and to socially distance. This would be creative and impactful education with a local flair, and would offer employment to folks in the Carnival niche. It’s a win-win situation.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has free guidelines and templates for public education campaigns during disease outbreaks. We should make use of them.
• Better enforcement of the current Covid-19 regulations. Too many citizens who called to report violations of the public health ordinances were ignored by the police.
• Ramp up the drive to make the public service digital so that members of the public do not have to physically go into an office to get basic public services.
• Offer an incentive to get supermarkets to offer full e-commerce—from browsing products online, to ordering and paying online for delivery straight to the customer’s door. PriceSmart is the only one I know of that offers full e-commerce shopping.
• Start releasing more granular data on infection spikes. It will help us make the best use of limited resources in the fight against Covid-19.
Giving a detailed geographical breakdown of infections can accomplish a few things.
• Businesses in those communities with infection spikes may want to ramp up safety protocols. They may even want to temporarily enforce stricter measures above and beyond what is required of them via the public health ordinances.
• State organisations and NGOs in those areas may want to ramp up public education and safety messaging.
• The police may want to send extra patrols to those communities to ensure high compliance levels with the public health ordinances.
• Those of us who are able to (eg, self-employed like myself) can go into a temporary self-imposed lockdown, reducing the movement of people in communities with infection spikes.
• We can make an appeal to the wider public to avoid non-essential travel to those communities with infection spikes, again reducing the movement of people in those areas.
• Take action at the regional level. Don’t make the entire country pay because there are Covid spikes in specific communities.
Also, if businesses are forced to shut down temporarily in one region, but see businesses in Mayaro and Moruga open and earning money like normal, it may be an added incentive for the shut-down businesses to become stricter about ensuring their employees and customers follow safety protocols.
We also need to address the lack of economic and social support for struggling businesses, self-employed people and the vulnerable in society.
To avoid further lockdowns, we need to strengthen our Covid-19 strategy while we try to source more vaccines for our population.
—Narrisa Mandol, a former journalist, is a video strategist and on-camera coach.