COVID-19 does not respect personal or political agendas. All it needs is a host to latch on to—any careless or non-compliant human will do—to spread through populations, with lethal consequences for many.
The coronavirus has killed half a million people around the world, including eight in T&T, and has brought the United States, an economic powerhouse, to its knees. The world has spent most of this year so far battling an invading force so tiny that it cannot be seen by the human eye, yet it is so powerful that only stringent hygiene and rigidly enforced physical distancing can keep it at bay. There can be no compromise with such a foe.
After several weeks of lockdown and a phased resumption of activities, T&T has returned to some semblance of normalcy, so much so that much less attention is being paid to the thrice-weekly Ministry of Health briefings on COVID-19.
In recent days, much of the interest is on the thousands of nationals caught on the wrong side of the country’s closed borders. Their cries for assistance have become louder and more insistent since the announcement of T&T as the sole host for CPL 2020.
A video posted by Joanne Pantin, 61, in which she makes a tearful appeal to return home has struck a chord with many. Her plight, trapped abroad in desperate circumstances, with funds running low has evoked many expressions of empathy and sympathy.
For thousands of nationals in similar predicatments, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s insistence yesterday that the borders will remain close must have felt like a cruel blow. However, there is much more at stake here than the comfort and security of the homeland that they all long for.
T&T and most of the Caribbean remain relatively untouched by COVID-19 but are surrounded by nations in North and South America where the speed of its spread is alarming.
Striking the right balance between protecting this population from the pandemic and maintaining economic activity has proven to be much more complex that the country’s public health professionals had envisaged.
That is why the exercise of accommodating the estimated 10,000 people trapped outside the country is being so carefully managed. That means for some there will be a long and painful period of waiting to get back home. The process depends on the capacity of quarantine and hospital facilities to accommodate the inflow.
Good sense must prevail on all sides. COVID-19 must not become a political football because the pandemic is too grave an issue to be the subject of misinformation or exploitation of any kind.
Citizens are free to choose their political sides for the election that is coming up on August 10. That is what democracy is all about.
However, the pandemic, if handled badly, can become a matter of life or death. The coronavirus is the common enemy everyone must unite to fight against. We cannot allow it to defeat us.