Opening up and protecting lives

THE EDITOR: I have maintained in my letters the need for achieving a delicate balance between applying covid19 protocols and allowing the economy to function as far as is practically possible.

You cannot afford to save the people from a covid19 death at the expense of allowing the economy to die a slow death. But this takes meticulous and knowledge-based planning involving a critical approach to each sector.

I emphasise a critical approach for one can take an easier one-dimensional approach of rationalising since covid19 is now “community.” We must engage in a virtual total lockdown when there is need to take the line of looking at each sector very closely to see how much you can allow some limited viability even as covid19 protocols are put into place. A one-size-fits-all is easy and involves limited planning, but it just won’t do if we are to survive as a people.

Take the public service for example. The PM’s comment about the effects of rampant absenteeism is not without merit and is instructive about how some workers respond to national crises, often exploiting them to the fullest to their own advantage. But this issue about the work ethic and true professionalism is another matter. However, absenteeism is but one aspect of the lack of service in the time of covid19, which is bitterly ironical about a group whose name suggests “service to the public.”

You go the Licencing Office et al and it’s a nightmare with patrons cowering at the hands of intimidating public servants who seem more in the role of the police keeping people in line as against looking after their needs.

The unimaginably gross inefficiency of TSTT in dealing with a senior citizen re her bill and avoiding her phone being cut off, as contained in Belinda James’ letter entitled “40 years later, Telco Poops still relevant” in the October 14 Newsday, is a symptom of the disease that is the public service.

Where are the managers who should do their jobs by seeing to it that the workers do theirs? Are they of the same ilk? A balance has to be found between getting these public servants to serve the needs of the people and protecting themselves against covid19 and this certainly can’t be achieved by their being off the job.

And the same should be done for businesses. Bars cannot survive without patrons and patrons need the social interaction for civilised living. You can allow for limited patronage with proper planning even as covid19 protocols are put in place. So too for businesses in gaming, gyms and restaurants.

People patronising businesses is the lifeblood of any society and snuffing this out means a slow death for both, including actual physical death in the form of suicide, precipitated by lost businesses, lost jobs and individual isolation.

The closure of MovieTowne, Chaguanas, is a classic case in point. With a critical approach to the issue, the closure of the cinema and surrounding businesses, not to mention the loss of jobs and the denial of an important medium for social relief, would have been avoided.

And such thinking must be applied to other areas of our national life, like the limited reopening of our borders, following the lead of Barbados, or our beaches as a means of social relaxation with stringent supervision, or our schools to avoid teaching as mere telling as is online as against being interactive between teacher and student in the classroom, inter alia.

Sure there are risks, but other places like the US, Australia and New Zealand are managing that risk, pulling back when it is necessary, all out of a realisation that a total lockdown as protection from death by covid19 is the tragic irony that will bring us another kind of death in more ways than one.

It is instructive that a health official would use the argument of not having more deaths as a rationale for disallowing using any place in TT as a “test case” following the Tobago model of “lifting restrictions and resuming normal operations” (a daily of October15). Sure more deaths are to be avoided, but it’s the kind one-dimensional thinking that would be pyrrhic in its consequence, to use a now current term.


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"Opening up and protecting lives"

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