THE PRIME Minister squandered an opportunity on Thursday to boldly shift his administration’s response to the covid19 pandemic.
Dr Rowley would like the population to change, yet his address to the nation suggested he himself refuses to adjust meaningfully the approach that has brought us to this crisis.
There was much anticipation ahead of his night-time address, which came hours after TT’s deadliest day in the pandemic was reported, and in a week in which the 2,000-death milestone was passed, amid confirmation of a third wave.
In recent months, the Prime Minister has used media briefings, often on weekends, to update the country on the Government’s covid19 response. So the format of a formal address to the nation added a sense of momentousness to the occasion. With a crime upsurge, there was even speculation Dr Rowley would address calls for a return of the abruptly ended state of emergency.
But despite the changed format, it was more of the same.
Dr Rowley appeared to spend much time beating around the bush, rehashing the history of the last 18 months and drawing comparisons with the state of other nations. Such contextualisation was apparently intended to defend his administration’s management of this situation.
Though there were no PNM T-shirts or party flags on show, in many respects it was an implicitly political address that heralded no new measure or plan to get us out of this mess.
Indeed, the timing of Thursday’s speech; the PM’s failure to upbraid publicly his party for the way it conducted itself on nomination day in Tobago; and the abrupt end of the emergency will lead many to see the event as nothing more than partisan politics under cover of a national address.
Perhaps the PM has set priorities and is waiting until after the THA elections to administer the strong medicine at which he vaguely hinted. If that is the case, many will continue to die, including children, who cannot be vaccinated and some of whom are in effect being held hostage by reckless or at best thoughtless parents who have not been vaccinated themselves.
The Prime Minister’s own overview of the grave situation built a case for bolder action, not the tired resort to moral suasion – which is clearly not working, as shown by the statistics of covid19 cases, deaths and stagnant vaccination figures.
The population is being warned that drastic things will happen if they do not comply.
But drastic things are already happening, spelled out by the deaths and the signs of the health system buckling. If no clampdown occurs ahead of Christmas, 2022 will only see more tragedy.
Ironically, the Prime Minister has up until this moment made a career of making tough decisions, such as closing Petrotrin.
The best Christmas gift he could give the nation is to rediscover such impulses and do what is right, not what is popular ahead of an election.