Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is warning that another national lockdown will be imminent if the COVID-19 numbers keep climbing.
“We hope it does not come to that because we always know that if we find ourselves getting infected from operations across the country where high levels of infection are the norm, then there are certain things that we have to do to roll that back,” Rowley told Guardian Media yesterday, moments after Health Minister Dr Terrence Deyalsingh announced that Government had decided to reinstate the ban on outdoor and indoor recreational sporting activities in the wake of a recent spike in cases.
Deyalsingh made the announcement at a COVID-19 media briefing, where he said ministry officials doing contact tracing and other research on how the disease was being spread had found that too many people were flouting the mask and social distancing mandates during sporting activities and this had contributed to the recent spike in infections.
Just two weeks ago, during another update on the disease, the Prime Minister had said that there was no more money to fund a second lockdown on the same scale as the first one and that all avenues for loans and funding have been tapped.
Despite the dire financial straits posed by a second shutdown, Rowley yesterday said that it could be the only resort if people do not cooperate with the renewed limited restrictions.
“We are not now saying we are about to take that action,” Rowley said, although he warned that it is not completely off the table.
“That is why we are at this point, taking the steps we have taken. We have taken one step, which is to reduce the amount of people out interacting without masks and so on. We have done nothing else for the time being.”
The new restrictions on sports gatherings are expected to be imposed today, the start of the long Easter weekend.
“If that action and other actions that we are required to take don’t bring about a reduction in the level of infections which is beginning to show up in the hospitals as increased healthcare requirements, as well as a larger number of people being confirmed positive every day, we will have to take firmer action,” he said.
Rowley pointed out that there was no one thing that could be pinpointed that spreads the virus.
“These are anecdotal common-sense understandings because we know how the virus spreads, so if condition for the spread exists, wherever those conditions are that the virus can spread. I wouldn’t want to put my finger on any one thing. What we are doing is reducing the environment for the virus to spread,” the PM said.
“We are trying to reduce the ‘other people’ exposure while we continue to do other things. The potential for reducing that exposure is what we are after.”
Rowley acknowledged that people blamed the spike last August on the general election, adding while that might be true, there were spikes in other countries that did not have an election.
With the latest restrictions coming into force over this long Easter weekend and with Tobago experiencing a very high hotel and guest house occupancy rate, Rowley said he had confidence in the T&T Police Service to ensure everyone would comply with the new limits.
“We have been taking reasonable actions,” he said.
Regarding the promised 40,000 vaccines from India, the PM said that there had been no additional information or updates on its arrival.
Rowley said for now, the one restriction on sporting activity would be enough but said he would be guided by medical experts in future.
“We looked at it and the advice is, from those who have been managing our situation, which is the health department and rest of the Government and we believe it would be enough if we get the cooperation we could get,” the Prime Minister said.
“If, on the other hand, cooperation is not there for all kinds of reasons and the virus spread accelerates and explodes, then it would not be enough and we’d have to do otherwise,” Rowley said.