ON the heels of the first report of less than ten daily Covid-19 deaths in ten days, today’s extended 19-hour curfew is a crucial step towards breaking the viral transmission to regain control over the pandemic that has already claimed 479 lives, 308 of which were lost in this month alone.
T&T desperately needs a break to catch itself and the hour-by-hour adjustments between the parallel and non-parallel health systems and expansion of resources could be helping reduce to deaths, fingers crossed. Thankfully, the number of positive cases is not hitting the exponential highs projected in the epidemiological model. However, at 637 positive cases yesterday, we are still in a very dangerous place.
Given the happy co-incidence of two public holidays this week, we have our best chance to break the back of the upwards spiral and bend the curve downwards. One good consequence of the confusing implementation of the new extended curfew hours for today’s Indian Arrival Day and Thursday’s Corpus Christi public holiday would have so puzzled the public that even people who could legally be out might choose to stay home.
The disjointed manner in which critical measures announced by the Prime Minister are acted upon by members of his cabinet indicate a worrying disconnect within the cabinet itself. Dr Keith Rowley must pull his team together, identify the problem and fix it. Whether it is so or not, one gets the impression that the PM announces decisions for immediate implementation which send his ministers scrambling to deliver with plenty room for error. If this is so, it’s an easy fix. Identify a “project manager” —not one already burdened by multiple cabinet portfolios—and develop an execution plan. The PM needs to get his ducks in a row to effect a seamless flow between announcement and action to build public confidence in his management of this prolonged national disaster.
There are still too many loopholes to be plugged.
While the Government focuses on the catering sector, it is missing the ongoing risk in places that are allowed to remain in operation. Covid-19 deaths and numerous infection outbreaks have been reported in commercial banks, energy companies including offshore platforms; manufacturing companies; supermarkets; Government offices; the police, Prison and Fire Services; and health facilities, including hospitals.
There is no information coming from the Government about public health monitoring of those legally allowed to continue operating.
An additional weakness in the regulations is the inherent assumption that persons whose places of work have been ordered closed, will necessarily stay at home. There is actually nothing in law to ensure these people stay home. Indeed, not having to go to work leaves them more free time to move around.
At this point, the Government should weigh the advantages of long-term lockdowns like the kind adopted by T&T, over the short, sharp, “go early, go hard” lockdowns implemented by New Zealand, for example. A gradual decline in deaths and cases is better than an explosion but it will still cost more lives and allow for more infections. What we need is a strategy to trigger a dramatic decline.