Covid19 rules take back seat in THA election

PNM supporters on a  truck during a motorcade on Sunday. PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS -
PNM supporters on a truck during a motorcade on Sunday. PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS -

Covid19 guidelines seem to have taken a back seat as the excitement builds towards the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election on Monday. Supporters of the People's National Movement (PNM) and Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) have been guilty of gathering in large numbers, wearing masks improperly and not staying six feet apart.

And though police and members of the parties' executives have been encouraging adherence to covid19 guidelines during meetings, they seemed near impossible to follow amid the election frenzy.

Trinidad Killa performs at the Cyd Gray Stadium car park, Roxborough, Saturday evening. PHOTO BY DAVID REID -

At the Cyd Gray Complex car park, Roxborough on Saturday, well over 500 supporters turned up to hear the PDP's final campaign message. Excitement overcame them as people were seen hugging, dancing, and in one instance sharing a vuvuzela from mouth to mouth to cheer the speakers. Although the majority of supporters were wearing masks correctly, others had masks on their chins and some weren't wearing any at all.

Members of the PDP executive repeatedly urged supporters to practise social distancing.

Soca artiste Trinidad Killa, with a guest performance, had the crowd in a frenzy singing Dyy Zess. The political zessing was too much for the supporters, who gathered near the stage to dance, and Trinidad Killa had to end his performance abruptly.

Deputy political leader Farley Augustine, during his address to bring the curtain down on the party's campaign, paused to tell supporters to stay six feet apart. By 11pm, as more supporters gathered, the party cancelled its closing special guest entertainment segment, which was expected to feature Tobago Super Blue.

PDP supporters dance and wave flags during a meeting on Wednesday at Signal Hill Recreation Ground. - DAVID REID

The PDP had introduced drive-through and fully virtual meetings to eliminate the mass gatherings.

PDP deputy political leader Dr Faith BYisrael told Newsday on Sunday that all the party's meetings were kept in open spaces, making social distancing easier. She said, "We even stopped the meetings until they (supporters) were separated and we kept reminding them of what they needed to do – to wear their masks and practise social distancing."

The Prime Minister waves to supporters during a PNM motorcade on Sunday ahead of the THA election. - JEFF K MAYERS

The PNM, during its campaign meetings, ensured seating arrangements were in accordance with covid19 guidelines.

Newsday was told PNM supporters were asked to sanitise and temperature screening was done before entry at most meetings.

But as the elections became heated, supporters seemed unable to help themselves.

At the last major meeting on Saturday night, approximately 400 people were at the PNM meeting, held at the Dwight Yorke Stadium carpark. Some supporters were sitting in their vehicles and only a small crowd of 100 people were gathered near the main stage. People were wearing masks but small clusters would form at intervals.

However, the PNM's motorcade on Sunday was a jam session on PNM trucks, with supporters dancing and waving flags, with barely a mask in sight.

The Prime Minister, wearing his mask properly, joined the motorcade, waving to supporters from an SUV.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram and Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh could not be reached for comment.

PNM supporters on a truck take part in a motorcade on Sunday through Bloody Bay ahead of the THA election on Monday. PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS -


"Covid19 rules take back seat in THA election"

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