Daly Bread: The March warning—Dr Parasram let slip the govt’s responsibility in current spike

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The working week began with a shock as a result of which we must ask the minister of health for truthful answers.

The prime minister hosted a media conference on Monday last, in which he announced increased lockdowns. At that event, our trusted chief medical officer, Dr Roshan Parasram, disclosed that he had drawn attention to ‘the worrying trend of climbing Covid-19 positive numbers since early March’.

Photo: Ministry of Health chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram prepares to face the media at a virtual press conference on 7 May 2020.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/GhanShyam Photography/Wired868)

He did so after more ministerial lectures about our personal responsibility regarding the further spread of the Covid-19 virus by ‘gathering’.

In passing, I wondered again about gatherings put on by those within the government’s close political circles, which might contribute to spread. My curiosity grew when Dr Parasram also disclosed that ‘the contact tracers say that a lot of contacts are coming from private gatherings’.

I had raised a red flag last Sunday about condonation of ‘society’ events held contrary to ministerial and other exhortations.

The Monday media conference began with Dr Avery Hinds, our equally trusted chief epidemiologist, presenting graphs to show that we are currently experiencing the highest number of Covid infections since August/September—elections time 2020.  

Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards, principal medical officer-institutions, followed to warn us that the capacity of the parallel healthcare system could reach collapse in days.

Photo: Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh (centre) poses with health workers at the Freeport Health Centre.
(via MoH)

These presentations were the prelude for the PM’s stern alarm about our now perilous situation regarding virus spread. Many of us were not shocked at how dire the circumstances had become, because we were aware of the ‘gathering’ big time as well as some of the madness that Easter would bring.  

The government stood aside when it knew or ought to have known what an unrestricted Easter would bring.

Over 50,000 persons travelled between Trinidad and Tobago in the week leading up to the long Easter holiday weekend according to Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan, who was proud of the smooth operation of the air and sea bridges.

He congratulated the persons responsible for ‘a fantastic job’ in moving that number of people smoothly ‘even though we are in a pandemic’.

Reference to this is not intended to fault lovely Tobago or Tobagonians. It simply further demonstrates officials blowing hot and cold about ‘gathering’, yet blaming those who were infected by the ‘free-up-for-Easter’ atmosphere.  

Photo: Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi (centre) was criticised for his mask-less appearance on Vibes with Voicey, a local game show, in March.

The shock was not from the foreseeable Easter fallout. It was Dr Parasram’s disclosure, expressed in the next three paragraphs, that shocked me—added to the PM’s acknowledgement that ‘the laxness starting in mid-March’.

“If you recall, I had said in the early part of March that we noticed a considerable increase,” said Dr Parasram. “People at the time thought that it was too small. I thought that it was enough to cause a significant increase in terms of a snowball-type effect.

“If it started in early March, just because we were going into a season—as you know Easter was coming up—there was a period where we expected an increased number of people coming together.

“When you take this kind of increase it goes on top the next, so you double, then you go into a quadruple very fast. If you think about a snowball, the effect is exactly like a snowball. You start small and, very quickly, you go to two, to four, to six, to eight and then to sixteen and that is what we are seeing in the graphs that Dr Hinds would have presented.”

Graph: Statistics on 7 May for new cases in Trinidad and Tobago.
(via MoH)

Who were ‘the people who thought the increase was too small’? Health minister, was that you? Were there political considerations requiring stimulation of the Tobago domestic tourism economy in light of the 6-6 Tobago electoral tie? 

Those who cast aside Dr Parasram’s early March observation would be bold-faced to reprimand ordinary citizens, without shouldering their own responsibility for what appears to be a horrible but foreseeable Easter outcome—given the warning about rapid spread likely to come out of the Easter weekend. 

Is it now clear that the increased lockdowns, imposed long after the March warning, are fatally late; and the persistent, but now abandoned, denials of the  South American variant slipping through porous borders were deceiving?

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About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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