In the parliamentary debate held on Monday last, the boastful confirmation from the minister of transport that the air and sea bridges carried 50,000 persons between Trinidad and Tobago during the Easter week came up again.
The prime minister reportedly ‘dismissed as a distortion the opposition leader’s reference to the minister of works’ statement that approximately 50,000 visitors went to Tobago over Easter’, claiming that ‘the works minister never said 50,000 people travelled one way—the movement of persons was equally in both directions from Trinidad to Tobago and from Tobago to Trinidad’.
Unfortunately, it does not matter what direction the 50,000 persons travelled and whether they stayed in paid accommodation or with family or friends. The government’s eager facilitation of such a travel demand was wholly inconsistent with what the government well knew was dangerous, illustrated by the reported words of the prime minister:
‘We understood the danger that we were facing was a mixing of the population and movement of people around, in a population where the virus existed. If we did have that kind of thing going on, you have greater numbers of people infected and by extension, greater numbers of deaths.’
The deficiencies of the opposition are allowing the government to take more than the usual liberties with the intelligence of the population in its ongoing attempt—playing as much politics as the opposition—to place sole responsibility for the current runaway outbreak of the Covid-19 on the behaviour of the population, even though the government has easy access to powers to restrict our tendency to ‘laxness’.
In the debate, the prime minister also angrily tried to put the responsibility for the runaway outbreak on the opposition by asserting that the opposition ‘organised gatherings of people called vigils, thousands of people for a month, trying to exploit the death of Andrea Bharatt’.
That unseemly move backfired. It stimulated closer inquiries into the extent of infections in early and mid-March, well before Easter. The emerging statistical information confirms a pre-Easter surge. Whatever the source of that surge, it points to the government having made a landmark error of judgment in taking its own lax approach to the Easter holiday period.
Andrea’s funeral was on February 12. It seems inconclusive whether vigils (at least one with the attorney general in attendance) contributed substantially to infections. More significantly, Dr Avery Hinds stated that ‘we began to see a steady increase from one week to the next beginning as early as the second week in March’.
I refer again to my previously unanswered question arising out of the disclosures of the chief medical officer (CMO): who were the people, in response to the CMO’s concern at the increase in Covid-19 infections in early March, who ‘thought’ that the increase ‘was too small’?
The prime minister has now, as reported on Tuesday, ‘denied without fear of contradiction that anybody, advising the government from the Ministry of Health or anywhere else who was authorised to do so, had given the government any advice about any action to be taken in March, which the government did not take’.
That denial has loopholes. It is plainly limited to advice about ‘any action to be taken in March’ and does not deny that there was an increase in infections known in early March; nor does it deny that there was concern about the multiplicative effect of those increases. Indeed, in light of Dr Hinds’ statement, such a denial seems a difficult task.
Moreover, the CMO has been careful to say recently that ‘it is the prime minister and other cabinet members who lend their advice as to what should and should not be acceded to’. So he is obviously not a person ‘authorised’ to tell the government what to do.
Clearly however, the Ministry of Health must have known of the pre-Easter surge, whatever its source, and the concern about it—but no action was taken to restrict Easter frolics. Did the government dismiss ‘the science’?
The government’s responsibility for letting Easter loose, resulting in what Dr Hinds labelled ‘the surge from congregations over Easter’ and a ‘surge upon a surge’ is becoming clearer. No more angry dus’ in we face please.