Daly Bread: The challenge of variants; why gov’t should be wary of swinging open borders

Most politicians will only present information to the public in a form that is perceived to be politically advantageous. When confronted with the reality of adverse events, denials or attempts, the first reaction is to trivialise reality—and sometimes in an obnoxious manner.

We have the added disadvantage of the poisonous politics of demonisation, which permits the government to deflect reality by ranting about the parliamentary opposition, which also rants and lacks capacity and credibility to make a point in any manner likely to add any weight to concerned public opinion.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(via Office of the Prime Minister)

Proceeding in this manner during a public health crisis has the cruel consequence of leaving many citizens in unrelieved hardship and it destroys public trust. It lies at the root of the government’s belief, hurtful to many, that the situation of people in need of food was not as bad as it appeared to be—despite the large size of the crowds seeking the gift of hampers at South Park, San Fernando recently.

The situation is every bit as bad as the hamper queues reflect. It is a grim reality that there is a near starvation existence in many communities in Trinidad, which government relief grants are not reaching. 

Accepting the Ministry of Social Development may have evidence of ‘smartmen’ crowding out some of those in need of hampers and profiteering out of the generosity of donors, the situation of need is widespread. It cannot be denied or deflected.

It is probably with awareness of the practice of deny and deflect that last Sunday’s Express editorial commented that the prime minister ‘rarely ever addresses the pain of the thousands grieving the death of loved ones, dealing with the horrors of living with Covid-19, or coping with economic hardship’.

Image: A MFO study in July 2020 shows the level of concerns by businesses at the time.
(via MFO)

The decision to reopen the borders may have created excitement, but, going forward in our largely unvaccinated state, it would be deadly to get back into the frolicking mood of Easter.  The resumption of international travel—with acknowledgement to David Rudder—is not a sign of fete in here, it is still pandemic madness.

We must not repeat the Easter week mistake when we were let loose to gather and party and consequently paid a high price in infections, in response to which the government went on a deflective rant about the Andrea Bharatt vigils.

Research, by reference to journals, reveals the formidable reasons not to have a coming-out-from-Covid travel party. The variants are a major problem.  

The government denied and deflected the threat of the introduction of the South American variant through our porous borders. Now the Delta variant, reportedly in the region but not yet in our country, is proving to be the undoing of progress in many countries. It has been described as ‘hyper-transmissible’.

Image: Covid-19 variants are causing concern across the globe.

These variants present a greater threat than the original virus and are not the same viruses on which the vaccines were tested. Full vaccine efficacy against them is not yet assured.  

We are in an even more perilous position facing variants because our rate of vaccinations is low and vaccine roll-out is prolonged, as we await supplies to arrive from time to time.

Ingrid L Katz MD, MHS and others in a perspective on the need for vaccine equity, contained in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), 8 April 2021, expressed strong concern about scarce vaccine supply in the global community.  They stated with regard to future variants (known as escape variants): ‘Moreover, an uncoordinated patchwork of immunity could exacerbate the rise of escape variants that could alter vaccines’ effectiveness.’

I am grateful for sources of information made available to this column by competent persons, who are willing to share but will be treated dismissively if they are not within the politically-accepted clique.

They might run the risk of getting dismissive treatment like that meted out to fellow commentator Winford James for daring to have well-articulated views of the proposed Tobago legislation different from that of the government.

Photo: Travel in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nevertheless, one is thankful for small mercies. I have seen the Tobago House of Assembly advisory to the Tobago public on how to obtain international immunisation travel cards and also a passing reference to digitising these cards—both as suggested in last week’s column.

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About 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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