The decision by the Government to implement further lockdown measures as COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise should have been expected.
Yesterday, it was announced that the nation’s beaches will once again be closed, restaurants, members’ clubs, movie theatres and anywhere else that offers food for sale will not be allowed to have in-house dining and only five people will again be allowed to gather.
These measures are sure to cause further economic hardships to restaurants, cinemas and other businesses that continue to struggle under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The reality is, however, that we have no one to blame but ourselves for this latest spike in the numbers and unfortunate deaths that inevitably follow.
Yesterday alone there were 85 new cases and two people unfortunately lost their fight with the disease.
The numbers have been going up since March and as the Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh noted, the Government is expecting even higher numbers coming from the long Easter weekend.
Several videos have surfaced of people in Tobago showing an unimaginable level of slackness in the lack of adherence to the COVID-19 protocols at beach events.
Police were recently forced to send home people from Movie-Towne as hundreds crowded the area.
We know it has been hard, as it has been more than a year of dealing with the new normal. But until the country is sufficiently vaccinated, we are unfortunately stuck in this cycle of social distancing, mask-wearing, hand washing and staying home when feeling ill.
That Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley also got COVID-19 shows that no one is safe from this virus and that the moment we drop our guard may be the time we are likely to risk infection and for some, it could be the ultimate sacrifice.
This three-week closure of the beaches will no doubt have a negative effect on Tobago’s tourism sector, which has been decimated by the closure of borders and the continued lockdown. In fact, THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis, who is also the Secretary of Tourism, told the Business Guardian that even during the Easter peak period there were cancellations, as some people feared contracting the virus due to the large crowds.
With the discomfort that the pandemic has brought and the economic hardship that it continues to cause, it only amplifies the urgent need to get most of the population vaccinated.
To date, we still have no real roll-out plan from the Ministry of Health for the vaccine. We have already seen that there is no national policy, with Tobago doing its own roll-out, separate from Trinidad.
Another 40,000 vaccines have arrived thanks to the government and people of India. They could not have gotten here quicker.
What is also needed now, however, is a much-needed public education campaign because there appears to be increasing global and local vaccine hesitancy which could only serve to lengthen our suffering.