The COVID reality / This past week cit­i­zens breathed a col­lec­tive sigh of re­lief as the re­tail sec­tor re­opened with­out a hitch. From to­mor­row spas, beau­ty and bar­ber sa­lons and do­mes­tic ser­vices will be al­lowed to restart with op­er­a­tors be­ing asked to main­tain pub­lic health pro­to­cols at all times with­in rea­son and to the best of their abil­i­ty.

This week will al­so see the roll­out of John­son and John­son (J&J) one dose vac­cines. Health of­fi­cials said they will be rolling out these vac­cines in rur­al com­mu­ni­ties and are seek­ing sup­port from lo­cal gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives and MPs.

The avail­abil­i­ty of the J&J vac­cine pro­vides cit­i­zens 12 years and old­er with choic­es that many oth­er coun­tries do not have, as they al­so have ac­cess to Pfiz­er, As­tra Zeneca and Sinopharm vac­cines.

How­ev­er, wor­ry­ing lev­els of vac­cine hes­i­tan­cy makes this range of choic­es vir­tu­al­ly use­less be­cause not enough cit­i­zens of­fer­ing their col­lec­tive arms in a show of faith of the on­ly sci­en­tif­ic rem­e­dy thus far to a virus that has claimed more than 1200 lives in this coun­try and mil­lions more across the globe.

While there is free­dom of choice in tak­ing vac­cines, there is an even more ur­gent re­al­i­ty fac­ing T&T, the Caribbean and the world.

COVID-19 has spread like wild­fire caus­ing sig­nif­i­cant lock­downs, with T&T just start­ing to emerge from its lat­est which in­flict­ed a se­vere eco­nom­ic toll, with loss of jobs, de­clines in in­come for fam­i­lies and de­priv­ing chil­dren of more than a year of in-per­son class­es.

With so many peo­ple neg­a­tive­ly af­fect­ed, those with a fear of nee­dles might want to con­sid­er this one-shot op­tion as a means to skirt­ing their fears.

The most re­cent da­ta shows un­em­ploy­ment in the coun­try as 4.6 per cent, al­though in re­al­i­ty, that fig­ure might be in dou­ble dig­its and far worse fol­low­ing the clo­sure of many busi­ness­es due to lock­downs. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, there are no up to date fig­ures on un­em­ploy­ment or pover­ty lev­els re­sult­ing from the pan­dem­ic and there­fore no sta­tis­tics to aid in chart­ing a vi­able way for­ward for this coun­try. That is a far cry from what ex­ists in the de­vel­oped world.

Dr Ralph Hen­ry and Kairi Con­sul­tants, in a re­cent analy­sis pub­lished by the Me­dia In­sti­tute of the Caribbean, de­scribed COVID-19 as a mega-shock. Even with­out up-to-date da­ta, it can be an­tic­i­pat­ed that as much as half of the pop­u­la­tion of the re­gion might be fac­ing pover­ty.

Kairi Con­sul­tants con­clud­ed that in­di­gence—food pover­ty—would have risen even in coun­tries where it was neg­li­gi­ble or did not ex­ist be­fore. It point­ed to re­ports here in T&T of stam­pedes dur­ing dis­tri­b­u­tions of free food ham­pers.

As re­cent­ly as mid-Au­gust, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert told the coun­try the gov­ern­ment had spent $5 bil­lion in re­sponse to the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. Of that amount, about $75 mil­lion had been spent to pro­cure vac­cines.

Those vac­cines are now avail­able to all of us. If T&T is to ful­ly re­open and get back to nor­mal, each of us must do our part. The health, eco­nom­ic and so­cial im­pact of COVID-19 can­not es­cape us. On­ly with a uni­fied ap­proach will we be able to bat­tle this coro­n­avirus.

LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian

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