Archbishop Jason Gordon.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate and with yesterday’s confirmation of 509 new infections, the country’s seven-day rolling average now stands at 411 cases per day.

However, despite the latest spike in cases, Roman Catholic Archbishop Jason Gordon says he will not support another national lockdown unless it’s a last resort.

Speaking on i95.5FM yesterday, the Archbishop echoed the sentiment already shared in many quarters of the country, including the Government, that another lockdown will be damaging to the country.

“Lockdown would be a last resort if it really goes to serious crisis stage, is because when you lock down you’re killing one part of the patient, which is the economy. For me, the patient is the whole of society. It’s not the person who has COVID, it’s the whole of society you have to treat as your patient,” the Archbishop said.

“You have to start balancing very carefully between the treatment of one ailment that is creating another ailment that is going to be long-term (and) is going to have dire consequences.”

He added, “The children having no socialisation – that’s another ailment in this society. We haven’t begun to understand the long tale of COVID. When the 14, 15 and 16-year (olds) have opted out of school and have gone wild right now – when we have to deal with them as young adults, now and in time to come – that’s the long tale of COVID. So locking down really has big consequences for the patient.”

Earlier this week, several business leaders also voiced concern about the rise in COVID-19 cases and feared another lockdown would be considered. However, the heads of several chambers have said the country and businesses cannot afford or survive another lockdown.

Describing the increase as a “matter of great concern,” Archbishop Gordon said he believed it was due to a lack of discipline among the population.

“It really speaks again to the indiscipline in our place. We know that this COVID is rife. We know that it’s a serious matter and we know what causes it. And we seem to not understand that discipline is required, in this time, like we’ve never had before,” he said.

“We also know the people who are dying are the unvaccinated. 99 per cent of those dying in Trinidad are unvaccinated. We know the facts but it’s as if we can’t face this and come to the discipline that is required.”

In the meantime, the Archbishop said he believes stricter measures can be used, along with an increased education campaign.

“What I would support is stricter measures and much more education of our population, one more time, of what is required if we’re going to live with COVID and not lock down the society,” the Archbishop said.

Public health specialist Dr Mandreker Bahall also expressed a similar view to Guardian Media. He said while cases are increasing, there is still time for the Government to exhaust other alternatives before turning to another lockdown—a move which he, like the Archbishop, said will have a dire impact on the country.

“Without that vaccination, trying to use another method like locking down the place – I don’t think it’s an appropriate strategy in my opinion. It’s going to cause another set of harm in terms of suicide, in terms of crime, in terms of economic hardship, all your other major issues,” Dr Bahall said.

He suggested that education campaigns and vaccination drives be ramped up and brought directly to the population in the communities, places of worship and even workplaces.

The General Secretary of the Anjuman Sunnat ul Jamaat Association (ASJA), Rahimool Hosein, had a similar suggestion.

He called for the Government to step up its education campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Unlike the Archbishop, though, Hosein said the organisation will support the Government if another lockdown was instituted. However, he noted they will only do so if “it is going to save lives.”

“This is key now, the most important thing, saving lives,” Hosein said in a telephone interview.

However, Secretary-General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), Vijay Maharaj, said he believed that another lockdown was imminent amidst the rising cases, along with the upcoming Tobago House of Assembly elections and Christmas season.

Still, he said the SDMS’ support of such a move would be determined by the nature of the lockdown.

The Government has not yet signalled an intention to implement another lockdown amidst the rising cases. However, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh had previously indicated that lockdowns should be something of the past now that vaccines were widely and freely available to the population.

But vaccine uptake nationwide has been slow in recent weeks. After some eight months of a national vaccination drive, only some 45 per cent of the population has accessed doses. Between Wednesday and Thursday this week, only 816 people accessed a first dose. At the drive’s peak in July, at least some 15,000 people were accessing doses per day.