While I for one am enjoying being at home as staying-at-home was always (apart from Carnival) a lifestyle choice for me rather than an intrusive government directive, I believe it’s time to consider relaxing the stay-at-home order. You don’t have to agree but before you get your thongs aka masks in a bunch and fly off the handle, just hear me out.
So far the authorities and population (apart from a few imps) have been doing a fine job in flattening the curve and keeping the healthcare system from further collapsing. I say further collapsing because no matter how rosy a picture the Minister of Health likes to paint of our normal healthcare system, having dealt with it intimately for about 18 months recently I can tell you it’s a failure. The stories I and I’m sure others can share would shock people to their very core, so let’s stop pretending Mt. Hope or POS General is Gray Sloan Memorial Hospital. Anyway, that’s beside the point though, the point is our parallel system is working as designed. Kudos.
Our first wave of Covid-19 cases and deaths has been mild in comparison to international counterparts and that is in no small part as a result of the measures taken. However, I believe we’re at point where we need to consider the long-term implications of remaining in a semi-shutdown environment. Wait nah….stay calm…I ain’t make my point yet.
The IMF is projecting that the world will suffer it’s worst recession since the great depression. For the global economy, it predicts a 3% decline this year while it expects declines of 6.5% in the UK, 5.9% in the US and 7.5% in the EU area. T&T was already stagnant before Covid-19 so one can only imagine the level of decline we’re facing this year. The good news is that the IMF expects broad global recovery to take place in 2021 although not enough to make up for the ground lost in 2020.
So here is my point, given the capacity of the parallel system with loads of beds (think they said more than 800) and according to the MoH “more than enough ventilators” (69 so far with 10 more expected), and given our manageable case load thus far, we should be thinking about relaxing stay-at-home measures. Now people like to say that those who are thinking about the economy don’t care about lives at stake. They say all they care about is money which is a myopic view in my opinion.
The longer the economy is semi-shutdown the deeper the recession. The deeper the recession the more is required by the government to help and the more national debt we take on. They can’t help everyone and those they can it won’t be to the level required to sustain them and their families. The $1,500 salary grant for 3 months is the best they can do and that doesn’t even help a lot of people who have no form of income.
Some of us may be able to afford to stay home for a long period but for others the situation is very dire, especially those on the fringes of society. No money, no food, no prospects. It is true you can replace money but you can’t replace lives however, lives can also be lost due to severe economic contraction. Desperate people do desperate things. So at the end of the day lives are also at stake if the economy remains in limbo for an extended period. People need to have some empathy and also consider these folks.
The health authorities are worried about the magnitude of the second wave and I fully endorse the current measures in place to combat that. Stay at home, stay safe, survive. However, depending on the height of the second wave (read that twice), come May 1st it may be time to have people return to work albeit with some restrictions before we dig a hole that puts us all in peril for years to come.
Of course, a restart of the economy could mean allowing most people to venture back to work thus increasing overall demand in the economy while continuing to take extra precautions with respect to the elderly and those with underlying at risk conditions. However, it should not be an excuse to not wash your hands or walk around with a snatty nose and no tissue like that that fool that shall remain nameless.
Don’t be stink.