It comes as no surprise that our experts have provisionally concluded that the P1 (Brazilian) variant of the Covid-19 virus has expanded within our borders; and, according to Professor Christine Carrington, ‘is the dominant strain right now’.
In last Tuesday’s Trinidad Express, the professor reportedly stated that ‘testing since the beginning of May 2021 has suggested that it has taken over’.
We already knew from the statement by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carpha) on the P1 variant, issued as long ago as mid-March, that it was likely to present additional challenges because of virulence and transmissibility.
I am obliged therefore to repeat my utter dismay at the government’s repeated brakesin’ from the likely P1 consequences of having porous borders, comprising of at least 15 well-known illegal points of entry for South American origin migrants. Where are the law enforcement operations to disrupt these in-your-face illegal activities?
The rapidity of the spread of the P1 variant contrasts with the slow and confused pace of the vaccination programme, on which the political survival of the government may ultimately depend. In this context, it is important to emphasise that the pandemic, in addition to ghastly human death, has been dealing bad economic wounds—some fatal—to businesses, and economic recovery requires we ‘vaccinate to operate’.
Last Sunday, the prime minster was quoted in the Express saying:
‘We can confidently say that by the next 12 weeks, depending on shipping arrangements, we would be able to vaccinate a substantial amount of people. Our first target is half a million people.
‘For the next eight weeks, the vaccination programme would be largely confined to what can be obtained through the Covax facility and then we would look to the Johnson & Johnson vaccines that have received World Health Organisation (WHO) approval.’
We were also informed of an order for 800,000 of the one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the first shipment of which will arrive in August. By that time, approximately 200,000 persons would likely have been fully vaccinated.
Vaccination targets of 70 and 85 percent of our population are in the vicinity of 980,000 or 1.19 million persons respectively. Let’s look at the adequacy of the proposed time frame, hoping that the minister of health does not mess things up again.
The first target of 500,000 is 12 weeks away. Reaching the 70 percent target is even further away. The government gravely underestimated the introduction of the P1 variant into our borders via South America. How many more will this deadly variant strike while we wait?
So-called vaccine hesitancy is another variable that may impede progress to the targets. After the significant demand for vaccination, so cruelly frustrated last week, is satisfied, will the vaccine get bouffe from others?
Although citizens are more scared now, a Market Facts and Opinions (MFO) poll published last month stated: ‘Strong pockets of disagreement suggest that there is much work ahead to attain the touted herd immunity level (70% +)’.
Alert readers would notice that I have returned ‘bouffe’ to its patois roots, having temporarily slipped into anglicising it to ‘buff’.
Bouffe is a frequent government communication mode, so it was pleasantly surprising that we were praised for good behaviour during the two recent public holidays. However, by then, we were tightly restrained by curfew.
Perhaps we would have behaved better for Easter had we been similarly restrained, especially as the medical experts had concerns about increasing infections well before then.
Final accountability of the government’s management of Covid-19 is still pending, whatever they spin to us—even while vaccine chaos breaks out. After the unwise facilitation of the mother of all Easters, well-seasoned with the P1 variant, the prime minister seems to have disowned the attorney general’s reference, in the Newsday on 2 June 2021, to ‘next Carnival going to be the mother of all Carnivals’.
The government does not have to fear the inanities of Kamla and her crew. It may have to fear its attorney general when he leaves his legal crease, and forays onto the entertainment stage. Perhaps his forays are not inane.
Are they expressions of vaulting political ambition?