Controlling the scene

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley - SUREASH CHOLAI
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley - SUREASH CHOLAI

The signals from the Prime Minister at Saturday afternoon's briefing on the management of covid19 were cautiously optimistic as he announced plans to further reopen the economy and relax restrictions nationwide.

The changes were likely to be a response to the strain on the private sector, as car dealerships were given the all-clear to reopen on Monday, along with the resumption of manufacturing.

More rollbacks of restrictions are expected on July 19, when restaurants will be allowed to reopen for curbside, takeaway, drive-through and delivery service.

Last week's opening of El Pecos, a popular buffet-style restaurant, as a reimagined mini-mart, illustrated the desperation that such businesses have been experiencing, its owners having registered it as a supermarket.

The long lines of customers around the block made it clear that there was need on the other side of the counter as well. By Saturday the reengineered restaurant had had to close while the owners tried to work out a covid19-safe way to deal with the demand.

The sleight of hand move caused mixed reactions among other members of the public and the authorities.

On July 19, restrictions on outdoor activity will also be relaxed, allowing people to exercise outdoors in groups of five or less –team sport remain banned for now.

While the count of new covid19 cases has been dropping, the country is far from sounding an all-clear.

The severe restrictions of the last few weeks have slowed the recent surge in cases. Hospital bed occupancy has dropped by half from highs of 80 per cent, and the High Dependency Unit is at 41 per cent occupancy.

The vaccination programme is hitting its stride, and the Health Minister's ambitious plan to fully vaccinate 188,900 people by July 31 is beginning to look realistic. Another 800,000 Sinopharm vaccines are expected next week, with other shipments expected before the end of the month.

The massive Sinopharm delivery will trigger further acceleration of the ramped-up vaccination effort.

But there must be caution and care as restrictions are relaxed. Some parts of the parallel health care system are still under considerable strain.

The ball, on July 19, will bounce into the hands of the population, who must demonstrate patience, caution and consideration.

Vaccines will improve resistance to covid19, but won't stop transmission, which can only be reduced through distancing, proper hygiene and masking.

Increased transmission is inevitably the consequence of careless congregating – which could be caused by something as easily avoidable as a rush for a popular food item that has been unobtainable under the restrictions until now.

And that could send the country back into another severe lockdown that we definitely can't afford.


"Controlling the scene"

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