This week’s opening of safe zones is the latest tentative move toward living safely with COVID-19.
Expectations that the coronavirus would have vanished from the world by now have not been realised. Instead, we must either submit to persistent restrictions or learn to live with a constantly mutating virus.
The latter is the preferable option. It is time to begin building resilience for further outbreaks while simultaneously rolling out plans to rebuild and develop the economy and society. The safe zones are a step in that direction.
Although more and more cases of the highly infectious Delta variant are being detected, retreating into another lockdown may do more harm than good.
That is why every citizen should be aiming for the successful operations of safe zones. Allowing the fully vaccinated to patronise restaurants, bars and casinos and return to gyms is not only about gaining some semblance of normalcy but also an opportunity for businesses that have been shuttered for many months to once again begin operating and for workers who have suffered through lengthy layoffs to once again earn incomes.
Hopefully, the Ministry of Education’s plans to resume in-person classes for vaccinated students in Forms 1 to 3 will be implemented in two weeks, notwithstanding the logistical and other challenges involved.
The protracted closure of schools has had negative social, emotional, and behavioural effects on children and limited their academic progress. It has been particularly difficult for lower-income students who have struggled to secure devices and internet access for online classes.
For these and many other reasons, the focus must shift to avoiding severe illness and death, gradually easing restrictions and charting a path to the other side of the pandemic.
To get to that point, T&T’s decision-makers and those who have been working on the Roadmap to Recovery must develop a framework for our collective responses to COVID-19 as the nation will need to continue to adapt to meet the changeable needs in terms of responses.
Evidence-based decision making and strong leadership will be paramount as guided by medical science, balancing health, economic and societal needs, T&T moves forward in a world that will be overshadowed by the coronavirus for the foreseeable future.
Tough choices and compromises may be required from time to time. There are so many things still to be learned, but some hard lessons have already been learned, including the fact that the pandemic has exposed and added to the deep divisions within our society.
We have all been affected by COVID-19 but in different ways. For some of us, the pandemic has been inconvenient, for others challenging, and for the many who have suffered losses and bereavements, devastating.
However, on the positive side, there have also been opportunities for progress, with innovations and shifts in the ways services are designed, delivered and accessed. Adoption of digital technologies and adaptations and innovations should be an integral part of T&T’s journey into a successful post-COVID future.
Survival requires that this nation keep moving forward and evolving. Safe zones, fully functioning schools and businesses and improvements in vaccination rates are all part of the process of learning to live with COVID-19.