Repeatedly, and with increasing urgency over the past few weeks, Government and health officials had been warning about the worsening COVID-19 situation in this country. Before Easter, an uptick in cases in County Caroni was the harbinger of this increasing threat to the public health system.
Still, some citizens ignored the warnings and now the country is paying the price with the reintroduction of an almost total lockdown.
There was the vain hope that the graphs tracking the rapid rise in cases and Ministry of Health updates showing the daily tally of new infections moving from single to double and then triple digits, would have awakened citizens to the magnitude of the looming crisis.
But the levels of denial were so widespread in the population that appeals to stop congregating were mostly ignored, even after the imposition of the first tranche of the latest public restrictions last Thursday.
Even more grim warnings were given at the news conference hosted yesterday by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
Based on the facts presented by public health officials, on the current trajectory, T&T is just about a week away from a full-blown public health crisis.
The hope now is that the grim scenarios presented by acting Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards and epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds about the threat to the parallel health system will, at long last, be heeded by those whose behaviours have been facilitating the recent spread of the coronavirus.
One chilling fact that should leave no doubt about the grave situation facing the country is that the parallel health system, comprising 542 beds in seven hospitals, is ten days or less away from collapsing under the demand for services.
According to Dr Hinds, there could be upwards of 10,000 active COVID-19 cases in the country by May 22.
Even Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, who has been commended for his calm professional demeanour throughout the pandemic, did not mince words in his latest assessment of the Brazil variant, which is now well-embedded in the population, spreading faster and hitting harder, as well as the fact that younger people without co-morbidities were now dying from the virus.
These grim forecasts from public health experts should be taken very seriously. The nightmarish situations being viewed from a distance in India could become reality here very soon, with hospitals out of space and COVID-19 corpses piling up.
To stave off disaster, citizens have very few choices. Dr Rowley’s advice to citizens to “use what you have close by and diminish your exposure to the virus” should be obeyed.
The inconvenience of having to do without non-essential retail outlets for the next three weeks and reduced operating hours for those deemed essential, are a much better option than continuing down the current path for which, as Dr Rowley stated, “the wages of this is death for some people."
So, T&T is now back to square one with pandemic restrictions once again fully implemented. Although the nation has been spared, at least for now, the added stress of a curfew and state of emergency, the worst-case scenarios cannot be completely ruled out.
And if that happens, we can’t say that we were not warned.