With the population reeling from the news of yesterday’s record-breaking 31 deaths and 624 new Covid-19 cases, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley delivered a 45-minute address to the nation that was the definition of anticlimax.
With an anxious nation poised and waiting for some indication from its leader of what new strategies the Government intends to deploy in the face of a rampant and ravaging Covid-19 upsurge, Dr Rowley chose to tread over well-worn ground using Covid-19 data that was three days old. A more out-of-touch address to a troubled country could not have been imagined.
The coup de grâce was his announcement that elements of Carnival 2022 may be held at a “safe zone”, where aspects of the festival can be “sampled as a Carnival microcosmic mosaic with a difference”.
We do not know where Dr Rowley has been over the past three days, but he should know that since we last checked on Monday, 63 more people have died from Covid-19, hospitalisations have increased by 33, home isolations have increased by 613, a plan has gone into effect to increase mortuary capacity, and some hospitals have moved into emergency mode. Heartbreakingly, among the victims are several children.
Perhaps Dr Rowley is too distracted by the PNM’s campaign in Tobago to check the temperature of public opinion. If he did, he would have sensed the shift in the population’s mood after the Ministry of Health released its 916th Covid-19 update yesterday. In Tobago itself where campaigning is in full swing, two more persons died from Covid yesterday, while the island’s hospital system recorded its highest number of ICU patients for a single day, indicating that its recently-increased ICU capacity may already be maxed out.
With the third wave still on the rise, Dr Rowley held out hope that “if there is no further significant deterioration” in the numbers over the next couple of weeks, the Government will consider early-morning beach openings from 5 a.m. to noon.
Frankly, we see no reason why beaches cannot be opened now to allow the public to enjoy their “therapeutic dips at dawn without the parties at afternoon and sunset”, as he put it.
One is tempted to speculate that Dr Rowley’s address was designed to blunt rising public anxiety and buy political time. However, such a view would be cynical in the extreme. As Dr Avery Hinds repeatedly reminds us, the Covid-19 virus spreads exponentially. With new cases running between 500 and 600 a day, there is no time available for purchase.
We would be very surprised if Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram and his team are not screaming from the rooftops for some additional measures from the Government to disrupt transmission of the Delta virus now raging through our ranks.
One thing that Dr Rowley was completely right about is that if current trends continue, the parallel healthcare system will be overwhelmed in a matter of days. Given that his speech seems to have been written on Monday and that the trend has since taken an even sharper turn in the wrong direction, the system may be on the verge, if not already overwhelmed.