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Too little too late with COVID-19

Dear Sir:

Since January, the opposition United National Congress (UNC) sought in vain to discuss our country’s readiness for COVID-19. Had we been given the opportunity to do so, we would have been way ahead in our planning for the pandemic.

We would have bought personal protective equipment for front line medical staff and first responders like police officers, ambulance drivers, army personnel and fire officers. We would have tested all our brave doctors and nurses who, unwittingly may be exposed to the virus as we speak.

We would have had protocols in place for the elderly and old aged homes. We would not be among the last in CARICOM to declare a shutdown of non-essential services, which is essentially a limited state of emergency, even though we have by far the most number of confirmed cases. And this, only after Kamla Persad Bissessar forced the government’s hand.

Grenada declared a limited state of emergency on March 25. The Bahamas on March 18, Saint Lucia on March 23 and Belize after one case declared a state of emergency on March 24.

Grenada’s advisory indicated that farmers were exempt so that citizens could be fed. In Trinidad and Tobago, we had to wait until Sunday to find out.

Barbados, with 24 confirmed cases announced their public health emergency and curfew later than ours but it takes effect before ours.

Were we allowed to discuss our country’s plans in January, we would have shut down our borders in time to give our citizens adequate opportunities to return and not have them languishing outside and at the mercy of others.

Had we discussed COVID-19 in January our Carnival celebration might have been postponed. We now know that the Mardi Gras, similar to our Carnival celebrations, left a toll of COVID-19 cases in New Orleans. Testing here has been too limited to find out the true extent of the pandemic.

Information from the government on COVID-19 comes in drips and woefully too late. We knew of Prince Charles, prime minister Justin Trudeau’s wife and Boris Johnson’s infections in a most timely manner. In Trinidad and Tobago, five hours after our first COVID-19  death we were still not officially informed.

Had we revised the current protocols in a well thought out manner, instead of the “business as usual” approach that was taken, then we would have been advised long before the hours it took before the ministry of health issued the statement a little after 8 pm on Wednesday, March 25.

Here in Trinidad and Tobago, sloth is praised. We celebrate reacting to events instead of being proactive. Guidelines are seemingly thought up on the fly. The government announces policy, like pandemic leave, a no-fly zone or a state of emergency, without finalizing details. We rack up unsustainable debt all in the name of COVID-19.

‘And no damn dog bark.’ The powers that be demand silence. And if you insist on your right to an alternative view, you are deemed unpatriotic.

Rodney Charles

Member of Parliament, Naparima



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