In the 12 days since the Government called a state of emergency, 155 persons have lost their lives to Covid-19. In the past four days alone, 50 of them died.
Let that sink in.
We are losing the battle against Covid-19 because we are playing into the hand of a virus that exploits disunity and divisiveness with traumatic and fatal consequences. And, in the same way that Covid-19 shows no sign of letting up, there is no sign of the unity needed for bringing this crisis to an end. In fact, the only sign is that of greater disunity.
Instead of fighting this virus where it matters most, we are fighting each other, led by agendas that put politics above human lives.
The list of casualties is no longer limited to those who test positive for Covid-19 but has expanded to include those on whom we are most relying to save our lives and guide us out of this crisis. The public health leadership team of Drs Roshan Parasram, Avery Hinds, Maryam Abdool-Richards, Michelle Trotman and others should not be considered fair game for cyberbullying in this crisis, nor should any of our medical professionals on the frontline.
Given the disastrous turn of events, one can expect that, in due course, a major enquiry will be held into the failure of the national Covid-19 response. But for now, we need to close ranks and not wait until Covid-19 slips inside our door to recognise what is truly important.
There is plenty blame to go around, but right now the ball is in the government’s court. It is within Dr Rowley’s power to radically change the narrative and bring the country together. But for that, he will have to put aside his personal animosities and emotions, however valid he thinks they are, and reach across the aisle. The Opposition, for its part, has to be willing to work under the government’s guidance, negotiating whatever policy changes it can, but willing to stay the course, even if it does not get its way.
Leaders are not worth the title if they cannot place the public interest above themselves. If animosity makes a détente difficult to achieve, then mediators should be brought in. We are doomed if we cannot engineer a dramatic reduction in cases and deaths right now.
We can do this. It took the forthrightness of Gregory Aboud, president of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association, to finally bring the Government to the table to listen. But the business sector is just one element of the society. The Government must accept that it alone does not have the answer, and that the answer lies in bringing the country together.
In 1978, when no one imagined it was possible in the civil war conditions that pitted them violently against each other, Bob Marley was able to buy Jamaica a little time by bringing Michael Manley and Edward Seaga together at his Peace Concert. The peace didn’t last, but all we in T&T need is enough peace between the Government and the Opposition to break the spread of Covid-19 transmission. Lives are at stake.