Recently, while talking via WhatsApp with a good friend from Switzerland, she mentioned something about my going to the beach. When I responded that, currently in Trinidad and Tobago, one can be arrested and charged for swimming in the ocean or even being on the sand, she was understandably shocked and confused.
I explained that for most of this year, as one of several covid regulations, we have been legally prohibited from immersing ourselves in natural water sources (ocean, rivers, springs, waterfalls).
“Are you serious?” she exclaimed, trying to wrap her head around the concept.
Indeed, normally such a restriction would seem odd on its own, but is even more so now to others who live in countries where life is proceeding with some degree of "normality."
All over the world there are restrictions and requirements that have been brought upon us in response to covid. In Switzerland (one example), one can walk mask-free in open public areas, but masks must be worn in publicly-accessible indoor spaces and, as my friend informed me: “Moving around here is very difficult without a covid certificate.”
An English husband and wife whom I had befriended when they visited Tobago some years ago are currently holidaying in St Lucia. At least once a day, in a charming personal style, they share photos of their leisure activities to social media, each post no doubt tempting the average person to consider a St Lucia vacation.
In one photo they are at a beachfront bar. They, and the young man chopping their coconuts and pouring rum into them, are maskless and smiling. Other photos show them masklessly enjoying the sea, sulphur springs and other tourist attractions.Currently, it is not possible to take such photos while visiting Trinidad and Tobago...both of which are also tropical islands. One must pause to ask: what makes us in TT so different from others in the region that we must be ordered to "mask up" once we leave home, and, like naughty children, are forbidden to even dip a toe in the sea. Recently a "birthday boy" was arrested for reportedly standing on the sand in Mayaro, "taking in the sea breeze" without a mask on.
Had my friends vacationed in Tobago, the beachless, ghost-town, masked-up atmosphere would have severely limited their chances of having a memorable and enjoyable vacation. When I mentioned our current covid regulations, one responded:
“Gosh, that’s strict. There is a lot of laborious paperwork to get here, but once in, things are mostly back to normal. There’s a 10 pm-6 am curfew Mon – Sat, but no great shakes for us.”
The website at gov.uk further advises Brits travelling to St Lucia: "On Sundays everyone must be in their place of residence by 5 pm and not leave again until Monday from 4 am."
Knowing that many in TT would be up in arms about such a curfew, I wrote to a St Lucia-based Trini friend asking about reactions there. Response: “Same as Trinis...lol...smh...but they learn to accept the curfew slowly but surely.”
As I write this on Thursday morning, with a midday deadline, I have no idea what the Prime Minister’s address to the nation tonight will cover.
Suggestions I have seen on social media include: "THA elections/campaigning..."we getting buff"... "mandatory vaccinations"..."Cabinet reshuffle"..."beaches reopening"...."return of curfew/lockdown"...
By the time this article is published on Sunday, we will know.
Could it be related to local media reports of the drastic surge in covid-related cases and deaths in TT, resulting in an even more overwhelming burden being placed on hospitals and funeral parlours?
One social-media comment sent chills down my spine: "What is disturbing is the cold storage warehouse that is being established in Central to store covid dead bodies."
A video recently shared on social media shows hordes of people, closely packed, liming and drinking at night on "de Avenue" (with no sign of police). Such a scene, prior to 2020, was normal "Trini ting"..."we culture"..."in we blood"... "Rum ‘til ah dead" ...promoted in tourist literature with proud headlines like "Learn to lime and party like a local."
For various reasons, the nation needs more than an address.