The upsurge of 24 new Covid-19 cases over the past 14 days needs to be fully addressed by the government.
With 10 of these cases having been confirmed in the four days between Monday and yesterday, the public is waking up to the reality that T&T has entered the dangerous new phase of community spread. And yet, from a public health policy perspective, it would appear that nothing has changed in response to this new worrying development.
The lack of response is unusual coming from a government that has prided itself on its successful management of coronavirus transmission. After the initial imported cases, new cases had dwindled to zero for over a month between April 27 and May 31 with only sporadic cases up until two weeks ago. However, we are now clearly in new territory and the population is looking to the government for guidance. Until it was postponed to today, we had hoped this would have been provided yesterday by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley when his office announced a media conference. However, we look forward to a clear statement from him today which addresses the very real concerns of the population. These include the concerns of parents who are sending their children to school to prepare for the SEA exam on August 20 and members of the public who are anxiety-ridden by the risks of daily interactions among a population that is yet to awake to the heightened risk of Covid-19 infection. Some like the Zoological Society which yesterday closed the Emperor Valley Zoo are not waiting on the government.
We feel certain that when Dr Rowley set the election for August 10 he felt confident enough that the worst of the pandemic was behind us. The likelihood that the country would feel safe enough to re-open schools in September and even open up its borders for regional and international travel along designated safe corridors seemed feasible. Even with the caveat that the virus may still be lurking undetected among us, few would have anticipated this upsurge in the final two weeks before the election.
In gauging current risks, we urge the government to stick to its commitment to be led by science and not political or other priorities. Even with the limited data available, public health authorities should have some basis for a statistical projection with risk calculation to guide the executive. Under Section 34 (1) of the Representation of the People Act, President Paula-Mae Weekes has the constitutional responsibility to determine whether the general election should be adjourned in any or all electoral districts on any of the stipulated grounds including an outbreak of infectious disease.
The priority now must be to calculate the risk of viral spread over the next 11 days and, depending on that, to decide whether the election can proceed safely under existing conditions, or whether it is safe to proceed only with major changes to the current environment, or whether it should not proceed at all.
Given the extent of complacency and recklessness, including behaviour fuelled by the election campaign, this newspaper finds it difficult to accept going to the polls in a climate of business as usual.