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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s address to the nation on Thursday night garnered widespread interest throughout the country as citizens paused to view and listen, keen to find out what he had to say.

The PM’s address came hours after Trinidad and Tobago recorded its deadliest day of the COVID-19 pandemic thus far, with 31 lives lost, including that of a young boy child—the second death of an innocent in less than a week.

As is customary, the Prime Minister’s media conferences, and indeed anything he has to say about the country’s COVID situation and Government’s response, elicits attention.

However, many sectors of society have expressed their disappointment with the Prime Minister’s address. In fact, they have chided him for “wasting their time,” saying his 40-minute-plus long discourse could have been “emailed” to the media for dissemination since he failed to unveil any solid measures to deal with the recent spike in cases and deaths brought on by the third wave of the disease.

Such reactions, aside from being Trini banter, clearly show many citizens missed the point of Dr Rowley’s speech.

It was not a waste of time but a last-ditch appeal to all of T&T to sober up and get its act together on fighting COVID-19.

While the Prime Minister was scolded and even mocked for referring to the present virus situation in other countries, what he was doing was giving citizens a prelude of what could very well become T&T’s reality ahead.

Had the nation listened attentively, many would have noticed Dr Rowley referred to other countries who took stern and drastic action to curtail and control COVID-19’s spread, inclusive of making vaccination mandatory for State employees, making the unvaccinated pay their own medical bills and citizens having to show vaccination proof to travel and enter specific locations.

The PM again painted a vivid picture of what the beleaguered parallel healthcare system is facing and what could happen if there is not a concerted effort by the population to increase the vaccination numbers and decrease deaths and daily cases.

For those left disappointed because there were no lockdowns, curfews or stay-at-home orders, were we really prepared for that? Could the country—citizens and businesses who are already struggling financially and eager to rebound in particular—survive that?

If the Prime Minister could be faulted for any aspect of his national address on Thursday evening, it would be for his continued faith that this population would wise up and exhibit the type of discipline required to make the right choices to protect the entire country.

There seem to be too many people in this country who need to be cajoled or coerced into doing the right thing, when it would be far easier to exercise personal responsibility, which is paramount at this time. Indeed, the Government has already telegraphed that the citizenry is now fully responsible for their safety.

The nation is at a critical crossroad on COVID-19 response and those who refuse to heed the warnings may find themselves paying a costly price—their lives and possibly those of their families and loved ones.