I have previously maintained in my letters the need for achieving a delicate balance between applying Covid-19 protocols and allowing the economy to function as far as is practically possible.
You cannot afford to save the people from a Covid-19 death at the expense of allowing the economy to die a slow death. But this takes meticulous and knowledge-based planning involving a critical approach to each sector.
I emphasise a critical approach, for one can take an easier, one-dimensional approach of rationalising that since Covid-19 is now “community”, we must engage in a virtual total lockdown when there is need to take the line of looking at each sector very closely to see how much you can allow to enable some limited viability, even as Covid-19 protocols are put in place.
A one-size-fits-all approach is easy and involves limited planning, but it just won’t do if we are to survive as a people.
Take the public service, for example. The PM’s comment about the effects of rampant absenteeism is not without merit, and is instructive about how some workers respond to national crises, often exploiting them to the fullest, to their own advantage. But this issue about work ethic and true professionalism is another matter.
Absenteeism is but one aspect of the lack of service in the time of Covid-19 which is bitterly ironical about a group whose name suggests “service to the public”. You go the Licensing Office et al and it’s a nightmare, with patrons cowering at the hands of intimidating public servants who seem more in the role of the police keeping people in line, as against looking after their needs.
The unimaginably gross inefficiency of TSTT in dealing with a senior citizen regarding her bill and avoiding her phone being cut contained in Belinda James’ letter, entitled “40 years later, Telco Poops still relevant”, in a daily of this week, is a symptom of the disease that is the public service.
Where are the managers who should do their jobs by seeing to it that the workers do theirs? Are they of the same ilk? A balance has to be found between getting these public servants to serve the needs of the people and protecting themselves against Covid-19, and this certainly can’t be achieved by their being off the job.
And the same should be done for businesses. Bars cannot survive without patrons, and patrons need the social interaction for civilised living. You can allow for limited patronage with proper planning, even as Covid-19 protocols are put in place. So too for businesses in gaming, gyms and restaurants.
People patronising businesses is the life blood of any society, and snuffing this out means a slow death for both, including actual physical death in the form of suicide, precipitated by lost businesses, lost jobs and individual isolation. The closure of MovieTowne, Chaguanas, is a classic case in point, where with a critical approach to the issue, the closure of the cinema and surrounding businesses, not to mention thee loss of jobs and the denial of an important medium for social relief, would have been avoided.
And such thinking must be applied to other areas of our national life, like the limited reopening of our borders, following the lead of Barbados; or our beaches as a means of social relaxation, with stringent supervision; or our schools to avoid teaching as mere telling as is online, as against being interactive between teacher and pupil in the classroom, inter alia.
Sure, there are risks, but other places like the US, Australia and New Zealand are managing that risk, pulling back when it is necessary, all out of a realisation that a total lockdown as protection from death by Covid-19 is the tragic irony that will bring us another kind of death in more ways than one.
It is instructive that a health official would use the argument of not having more deaths as a rationale for disallowing using any place in T&T as a “test case” following the Tobago model of “lifting restrictions and resuming normal operations” in Thursday’s Express (Page 13). Sure, more deaths are to be avoided, but it’s the kind one-dimensional thinking that would be “pyrrhic” in its consequence, to use a now-current term.
Dr Errol N Benjamin