Disclaimer: I hold no brief for any political party in T&T. I am neither red nor yellow; an explanation that hardly seems necessary, as these are no longer partisan times.
Unprecedented threats that create uncertain times call for courage, calm and cajones. In that regard, the sitting government of T&T has stepped up to the crease and thus far batted with aplomb.
The overriding fear was that stereotypical myopia and lackadaisicalness, coupled with the disruption of Carnival celebrations, would have led to a wait-and-see approach by those charged with our health and well-being. Instead it’s been pleasantly surprising and crucially comforting to witness an approach that outshines supposedly more experienced nations, with out-of-the-box thinking and a level of transparent dissemination of information previously unseen in this country.
Step forth, Minister Terrence ‘the Titan’ Deyalsingh who has been the epitome of strategy and execution. This, despite the unimaginable pressure that his portfolio faces and has faced over the past two months.
His preparedness is evidenced by his calm. His demeanour is the antithesis of panic, his all-encompassing approach is the necessary assurance. And, forgive an unintended pun at this time, his composure has caught on with his colleagues.
There has been not a single iota of innuendo, no attempt to downplay the situation, the Minister of Health and his team have provided only direct facts and figures that reinforce a singular approach. Consider the wavering stance of the United Kingdom and USA.
Consider too the reluctance to acknowledge the seriousness of the novel coronavirus that has led to belated attempts to reduce the spread, while we have had the courage to take major decisions that negatively impact the economy, education, production and changes the culture of a very free society.
We have been accepting of it not because of our legendary easy-going nature but because deep down inside—as we witness the horrors of army trucks removing the dead in Italy and see the ticking time bomb of exponential spreading set to explode in the US—we know that T&T has been proactive at the level of global leadership proportions.
In local parlance: ‘We’re not playing around wit dis’.
When Minister Deyalsingh told us throughout January that he was ready, we shrugged our shoulders and placed our concerns in the delayed tray of post-Carnival. But come that time, we quietly wondered how we would cope as ‘if’ became ‘when’ in quick time.
Last week’s seamless receipt and transfer of the infected cruise ship passengers offered all the evidence of his continued statements of strategy to cope, in the lead up to the first Covid-19 case in the nation.
It also clearly shows that T&T understood the implications of the spread in a world shrunk to mere degrees of separation by globalisation; when the first alarm bells were ringing in Asia alone. It has taken the dire examples of Italy and Spain’s despair for other nations to undertake the hard decisions of closing schools and borders, publicly persuading social distancing and discouraging congregation, regardless of the direct effect on the economy.
While other nations sit on their hands and titivate towards ever changing plans, we have been resolute in our singular approach. It has been ridiculously surprising because, hitherto, it’s simply not ever been displayed in our culture. It seems it’s not just the coronavirus that is novel these days.
The preparedness has meant that there a few surprises for the government, and few to come. There is no-Trump style sugar coating statements to offset the greatest threat to mankind in over a hundred years. The Prime Minister’s analogy of a gentle climb of virus cases is as clear cut as can be that the government is fully aware as to what is happening, as well as what will happen.
We will have more cases, it is inevitable. What we will do is manage the hell out this pandemic. We have set a precedent as to what we are prepared to do to ensure crucial management and that in turn has prepared the population for further, necessary steps.
If the Prime Minister is the conduit of confidence over the past two weeks, then it’s also because Minister Deyalsingh is but one cog in a comprehensive think tank that allows (again, unprecedented) symbiotic decisions.
Thus, a forward thinking Minister of National Security is able to undertake closing borders, knowing that it’s an absolute requirement of the Ministry of Health and the implications of such a decision will be addressed by the Ministry of Finance.
As simple as that appears, it takes preparation and nations with a hundred times the experience from wars and plagues of years gone by, are currently rooted to the spot.
There are advantages of not being bogged down by traditional, historical thinking that does not adapt to crises like a 21st century pandemic. For the first time in our history, we are making the most of being a relatively new independent nation, with bold thinking feeding harsh decisions.
At this time, when it has stopped being about who is at the helm, we are being urged to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper and battle the greatest threat that our country has faced; in short, we have to be patriotic.
The actions that we have taken thus far also mean that we should be immensely proud. Stay safe T&T.