In the book Pilgrim’s Progress, John Banyan wrote: ‘The road of denial leads to a precipice.’
He describes a hill called Error that was easy to climb but steep on the other side. At its foot were the bones of many who Flatterer deceived. He had coaxed the pilgrims to think well of themselves, causing them to mistake darkness for light.
That scene could be the tale of our nation in the last nine weeks.
At the start of 2021, we ‘flattened the curve’. We had a positivity rate of under 5% for the first two months. We were well on our way to reopening the economy and schools.
Why did we end up with a positivity rate of 45% in the first week of May? How did this careening outbreak arrive at our doorstep?
By mid-March, when our cases started to climb, our testing did not increase. We missed the higher transmission rates because the number of tests was lagging at February’s levels.
If people do not know they are contagious, they will not isolate. The virus will spread silently. The sharp upturn of cases began the following week. We had rocketed to an eight per cent positivity rate in two weeks.
We chose to deny this reality. We had Easter preparations to do. The testing rate doubled in April. The correct thing was to increase the restrictions, yet there were calls for a ‘bligh’ and evasion tactics. There was no room; the positivity rate continued to breach records.
At a press conference on 27 March, the week before Easter, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley warned: “… Some people could begin to feel tired and would look for the first opportunity for relief…not constrained by the mundane exhortations of Dr [Michelle] Trotman.
“[…] In your attempt to enjoy the post-pandemic prematurely or to be generally irresponsible and even destructive, think about what you are risking… When you have a drink in a restaurant that is not supposed to be serving alcohol, think about the consequences of the simple action of yours that may trigger a national drawback…”
Did we choose to deny this reality because of Dr Rowley’s attire? We, who have studied his wear at press conferences, may have dismissed the import of his words since he was wearing a beach shirt.
Why believe that he was serious? Did we not see AG Faris Al Rawi and superintendent Roger Alexander two days before playing theirselves?
Some blamed the Easter weekend with 50,000 visitors but was it: the weekend, Tobago, or our blasé response to the virus?
We then pivoted to the belief that a hapless Venezuelan is responsible for our problems. Admittedly, the person was the first registered case of the P1 variant. But we disregard the discovery of the five others without any connection to him on the other side of the island.
We refuse to accept that our cases in Caroni and Victoria were surging since that is all politics. Pure wickedness! We do not bother with the map of confirmed cases, which essentially reflects last year’s locations.
We downplay the off-the-chart explosion in the east-west corridor because it does not fit our narrative. Frighteningly, despite the 4 March restrictions, these numbers spiked. The brakes were not working.
We have beaten every projection of active cases since the start of March. Acknowledging this would mean taking responsibility. We do not wish to do this.
We, like ‘doubting Thomas’, must see dead bodies before we believe. The hospitalised cases increased as a proportion of the active ones and will continue to enlarge. Is that the government’s fault?
Half of our present active cases are in their prime years. Covid-19 in our country is now an illness of the young. Three in every four Covid-19 patients are under the age of 50. And Dr Trotman said they are arriving in a worse condition than their elders did a year ago.
What will it take for us to stop the denial and take personal responsibility? When would we stop talking about vaccine availability and do the simple yet necessary public health actions?