Preventing community spread of the novel coronavirus is absolutely critical, Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy leader Farley Augustine has stressed.
Speaking with Newsday on Friday morning, Augustine said many of the measures the Prime Minister had announced to tackle covid19, Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Minority Leader Watson Duke had been publicly agitating for well over a week before.
“In essence, we agree that we should be moving towards locking down the country to prevent the community spread of the disease. Community spread is the spread of the virus to individuals who have no known contact with other infected individuals or who have not recently travelled to an area where the disease has any documented cases. So preventing community spread is absolutely critical,” Augustine said.
He noted that many of the things tthe PM suggested were not enforceable without action from the Parliament.
“Just last night, we saw a church disobeying the call to not congregate. They had over 100 people in a church service down South Trinidad. People are still congregating in large crowds at beaches and rivers. People are shoulder to shoulder in supermarkets. Supervisors are still not providing pandemic leave because there are no provisions in law or on contracts for such. An ordinance had to be passed to force bars and restaurants closed.
Since Augustine's statements, the Public Health 2019 Novel Coronavirus regulations have been put in place. Among other things, they bar religious groups and others from meeting in groups of more than ten.
Commenting on the THA’s response, Augustine said it leaves much to be desired.
“Outside of parroting what we have heard from Trinidad, there is no real sense of assurance that the THA, which is responsible for healthcare on the island, is really ready.
“We learnt from Trinidad a week or so ago that the Coast Guard will take positive cases from Tobago to Trinidad – either Couva or Caura. Exactly how that will work is still not clear,” he said.
“Therefore, there have been no proposals forthcoming from the THA on how we are going to treat with the economic fallout. Thankfully, two days ago, the PM promised liquidity to credit unions, help for Tobago hotels and critical meetings with the business community."
On Friday, Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles, the Tobago Chamber of Commerce, Minister of Tourism Randall Mitchell and Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon met to discuss the economic impact of covid19 and measures to mitigate.
Augustine also weighed in on the issue of pandemic leave and how it affects health workers.
“The TRHA, via a press release, told workers that the proposal for pandemic leave was not applicable to them. God alone knows how workers in this sector will take care of their children that are at home from school.”
Augustine reminded Tobagonians that they have a history of being resilient, and urged them to look at the positive side of being at home.
“We can successfully get through this, but we have to do it together.
“I wish to urge families to heed the advice on social distancing. Take care of the elderly and ensure that you are not putting them at risk. Parents, and in particular fathers, please see this an opportunity to reconnect with children.
"Social distancing is not banishment. Read books as a family. Go hiking and enjoying nature away from people. Binge-watch a series on Netflix. Revise schoolwork with children. Complete outstanding school assignments. It is a great time to go planting in your backyard garden.
“We need to avoid becoming like Italy, that now has on average over 450 cases per day and a death toll that has now exceeded China’s. Better safe than sorry.”