REFLECTIONS During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Covid-19 has undeniably stretched its tentacles into every sphere of human interaction and endeavour, upheaving the lives of many and redefining the typical concept of ‘normal’. Being an unprecedented phenomenon with no prior experience of navigation, the virus has managed to become a plague and a challenge within the sectors of health, retail, transport, environment, manufacturing and travel, food and beverage, hospitality and entertainment. There is no doubt that as a people, we have suffered tremendous losses and setbacks as a result of this virus. However, at times, we can easily find ourselves sitting back in awe as we observe just how quickly our species can adapt and innovate strategies to be able to cope with Covid-19. This shows the resilience of our people.

We have noted the distinct unravelling of the once previously rigid systems within the workplace, educational institutions and other types of organizations. Many attitudes and preferences are being reset due to the pandemic. Planned activities have now been forced to occur virtually, allowing for a welcomed flexibility in the work/life balance. However, while this has been a progressive step in the constantly evolving technological landscape, it also highlights the plight of many of our citizens who have no access to devices and/or wireless internet to facilitate their educational studies or their work endeavours.

Unfortunately, despite the promises to distribute 45,000 MiFi devices that was made in the 2021 Fiscal Package in October, 2020, and the promises to give priority to the education of our future leaders and technologists, the people of Trinidad and Tobago have yet to stand as a beneficiary of any such promises made by the Government. Where does this leave our future young adults, if their access to education has been stunted?

It has been said repeatedly that the way out of poverty and crime is through education.

This is the driving force that has led the Members of Parliament and Councillors of The United National Congress to embark upon many initiatives to facilitate the provision of devices for the disadvantaged persons in society. Every UNC MP and Councillor was also seen ‘with their boots on the ground’ since mid-2020, when many citizens began reeling from the effects of the closure of businesses, downsizing of the workforces and the discontinuation of many private jobs. The UNC showed up then and continues to show up!

An example of the UNC’s dedication can be seen in the Mayaro MP’s Action Plan to Prevent the Spread of Covid-19. This initiative was coordinated because MP Paray became aware of the runaway transmission rate in the communities which comprise his constituency. His investigations revealed the genesis of the P1 variant in Mayaro.

“We had a couple of hundred people in home quarantine who unfortunately were not staying put according to the orders.”- Paray stated.

Immediately after, a multi-stakeholder initiative was formed, comprising MP Paray, Mr. Raymond Cozier, Chairman of Mayaro-Rio Claro Regional Corporation (MRCRC), County Medical Officer of Health for Nariva Dr. Clem Ragoobar, Dr. Kamaladin  Amin of MRCRC’s Health Department, Insp. Rishi Ragbir and Assistant Supt. Dave Revanales of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, Mr. Walt Ali and Ms. Farisha Mohammed of MRCRC, Supermarket proprietors Mr. Vernon Persad and Ms. Sunita Persad, Mr. Matthew Pierre, Community Liaison of bpTT, and representatives of the MP’s office. The following measures were put in place, as a result of the meeting:

1. Public Education- Via a mic system, constituency-wide messaging was executed within every community, encouraging citizens to follow the protocols. Councillors aired their voices on pre-recorded messages on the Public Education Drive, which continued for 21 days from the period of May-June 2021.

2. The Corporation offered the services of the Municipal Police Resources to augment the TTPS Emergency Response Unit and assist with quarantine monitoring. Unfortunately, they did not receive approvals from the Ministry of Health. However, the Municipal Police assisted with general policing to maintain crowd control at businesses and markets during that time period.

3. The Disaster Management Unit ramped up the sanitizing of all public spaces and also provided disinfectant. They continue to support the sanitizing of the police and fire assets as well.

Now, there exists the firm belief that our country would have been in a very different position had the Government addressed the issue of Covid-19 in a timely fashion when it was first raised in Parliament as a matter of urgent public importance, by Dr. Tim Gopeesingh on January 30th, 2020.

However, till date, the Government continues to operate in a haphazard manner which is indicative of the lack of foresight, poor planning, zero people-centered approaches and downright poor leadership that is far from the desired sustainable style of leadership.  

A sustainability leader must have a set of personal characters and managerial traits that enable him to lead with empathy inside a multitask-holder environment. A sustainability leader is someone who inspires and supports action towards a better country, and world at large. There is much to be desired in Dr. Rowley’s dictatorial handling of our country’s interests. While cities such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Brussels and Nanaimo are using models such as the Doughnut Economic Model to guide their Post-Covid-19 Recovery , the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago are left clueless as to what exactly this Government has planned to ensure our economic recovery.

Now undoubtedly, it is clear that Covid-19 has extended its effects to areas beyond just the tangible. Mental health issues are very common and are easily overlooked and disregarded. Individuals who fall victim to anxiety and depression are usually labelled as weak or ‘unwell’. Bounded together in the cocoons of our homes, the only way we can survive this is by remembering that we as humans, are existentially social creatures. We rely on a collective support network whether we choose to admit it or not. However, with the lack of openly-interactive relaxation avenues available, a lot of responsibility is now placed on us to become stronger at managing our stresses and challenges for the preservation of our mental health.

A few tips for being Kind to Our Minds are:

  1. Pause. Breathe. Reflect.
  2. Connect with Others (Virtually).
  3. Upkeep a Healthy Routine.
  4. Be Kind, Gentle and Patient to Yourself and Others.
  5. Remember to Reach out for Help, if you need it.
  6. Take up a New Challenge. Learn something New (Be it a Hidden Talent or a New Skillset.)
  7. Read a Book.
  8. Limit Social Media Usage to Reduce Anxiety.

Being kind to ourselves implies taking a mental note of what we can and cannot control at this moment and choosing to focus on what we have control over. There is no definitive answer on when this pandemic will end and there is never a definitive answer for what the future holds, but what we can control is how we react and respond to what we are facing. It is important to remember that however we may feel is valid and expected. It would be a form of acute traumatic stress, due to the fact that the world’s “normal” will never be the same. It is important that we allow ourselves to authentically ‘feel through’ our emotions but not let them consume us.

Lastly, always relay words of kindness and love to the ones around us or those who may lack that support network and retreat inwardly as silent sufferers. One Act of Kindness is sometimes all it takes.

Vol. 1, Issue 1