Express Editorial : Daily

Yesterday’s announcement by US President Joseph Biden outlining details of his administration’s vaccine allocation programme is the good news that we so badly need at this time.

In about three weeks, Trinidad and Tobago should be receiving a donation of vaccines from the US government that will substantially boost supplies being purchased through the African Medical Supplies platform and the government of China.

This is the breakthrough that we need to get an upper hand on Covid-19 which continues to rage through our ranks, decimating lives, destroying livelihoods and destabilising every aspect of national life.

While we note the bureaucratic and regulatory matters to be dealt with in clearing the vaccine for export, we hope every effort will be made to expedite the shipment.

Yesterday’s Ministry of Health report of another 14 deaths and 548 cases has added to the state of national gloom. Almost three weeks after the imposition of a state of emergency we are yet to achieve anything close to the breakthrough we had been hoping for.

In the face of this, our one hope now lies in the vaccines.

The Government’s strategy should turn sharply towards targeted measures to cut transmission while persuading the public that vaccine deliverance is at hand if they would only hold on tight and stay out of Covid-19’s way for a few more days.

The success of the two days of daytime curfew should prove to the Government that the public is willing to do a lot more than it has been asking of it. Given clear instructions which left little room for doubt, the public complied without protest.

Now that we are assured of a substantial supply of vaccines, the Covid-19 management team should strategise on how the curfew instrument could be more effectively and imaginatively used to achieve the desired effect. It could start by being open to the idea of varying the hours from the static 9 p.m. - 5 a.m. in a curfew timetable that uses a combination of lengthier curfew hours and curfew days.

It is true that there is a high degree of Covid-19 fatigue among the population, but the prospect of the imminent arrival of vaccines will give the public reason to redouble their efforts, if the message is effectively conveyed.

For over a year, people have been swimming in an ocean of uncertainty. The message they need to hear now is that a safe landing is just within their reach if they just summoned their last reserves of energy to stay safe and stay alive until the vaccine gets into their arms. We can do this.

At this point, we should not allow ourselves to be distracted by the penchant of idle minds with nothing better to do than fuel rumours. It is an absolute disgrace that the leader of a business organisation could confidently go on national television and spread a rumour about illegal vaccines being brought into the country for use by a private medical facility. We therefore commend the police for their swift investigation of the unsubstantiated claim by Clint Arjoon, head of the Fyzabad Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

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The initiation of a Commission of Enquiry into the Government’s management of Covid-19, for which Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is so passionately clamouring, would be instructive if it presented an opportunity for the people of Trinidad and Tobago to hear from her just how she would have managed this health crisis had she been in charge.

The hush-hush arrival of a “small donation” of vials of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, flown in and apparently hand-delivered by courier to the Ministry of National Security, raises more questions than the number of vials involved.

I am repeatedly asked by various stakeholders whether Covid-19 vaccination could be made mandatory, so today I offer some initial thoughts.

This is not a clear-cut legal question and there are good arguments on both sides. There is no law, precedent or policy which governs the matter at present. Labour law, public health and human rights issues intermingle and ultimately, what is reasonable and in the majority interest would likely prevail.

Why would a person willingly give up their family, job and community to embark on an illegal, dangerous journey to another country?

In the case of the Venezuelans, it’s because they are generally running away from unbearable, life-threatening circumstances.

Did the staff at the health centres know only 50 persons could have been be vaccinated per day? When they realised this, did they not think to register the names and telephone numbers of the other elderly citizens already in line from 5.30 a.m. who were sent home when the vaccinations ran out?

I hope the Government considers giving a booster shot of the Sinopharm vaccine if supplies are available to this country. Dr Amery Browne, Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, said T&T will receive 200,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine from China this week.