Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley has severely criticised persons who have been staging parties and other gatherings despite efforts by his administration to curb the spread of the coronavirus that has killed 115 and infected nearly 6,000 Trinidad and Tobago citizens.
Addressing the ground-breaking ceremony for the new headquarters for the Ministry of Health on Tuesday, Rowley described as selfish those persons who were insisting on staging these parties and fetes across the country.
“I must say I am amazed that some people in our national population could be so cavalier and irresponsible and selfish that after January to November being told about how dangerous this thing is and why we need to be going through what we are going through to evade its worst fangs and all these people want to do is throw parties.
“I want to say to the national population again we are not immune to what is happening to other people around the world. This virus is no respecter of gender, of race, of class or economic standing. Do not play Russian roulette with it,” Rowley told the ceremony.
On Monday, epidemiologist, Dr Avery Hinds, Monday said there is no inherent difference in the amount of coronavirus risk patrons exposed themselves when they participated in a wedding and a “Zesser” fete over the last weekend.
“There is no distinction between one type of gathering and another with regard to the COVID-19 risk; the virus does not discriminate between one setting and another if protocols are not followed to prevent the transmission of illness. Those protocols including the reduction of gatherings to below 10, the physical spacing,” Dr Hinds reporters.
He said that every singular person presents his or her own web of exposure and when many of those webs converge in any space, the risk increases exponentially. The epidemiologist said that while the law makes a distinction between the ability to police public versus private spaces, the virus does not.
Over the last weekend, police arrested more than 250 people attending the “Zesser” fete in Central Trinidad in violation of the COVID-19 Public Health Regulations.
“It is amazing, that mere hours after Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley and Minister of Health, Terrance Deyalsingh, stressed on the dangers of large social gatherings at public events, over 250 citizens would throw caution to the wind and participate in such an event, which not only endangers those who attend, but now these 250 plus persons will be returning to their homes to also endanger their loved ones and the wider public,” Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said, even as he defended the decision not to arrest anyone attending a wedding in the upscale Valsayn area, just on the outskirts of the capital, saying that was a private affair.
“The next objective is to prevent these Zesser parties, whereby the organizers are trying to beat the system, using the get out of jail free card by stating it is private property,” Griffith said.
The police said that some of those arrested have been released and will be charged via summons.
Rowley told the ceremony that if the COVID-19 infections worsen, it would put tremendous pressure on the local health system.
“If a group of people, whether it is 200 or 100 in a wedding in Valsayn or wherever else, if you all do that and you infect a significant number of people in this country and those infected people mathematically multiply and over a short space of time we get a large number of sick people in this country, there is one outcome to that.
“So far we have avoided that outcome and that outcome is there will be a large number of people requiring medical care at the health institutions and high intensive care and equipment and staff that we may not have”
Rowley said, maybe it is at that stage, that people would come to their senses, adding that he was not prepared to sacrifice the health of the nation for a few irresponsible people.
“This whole nation is about the size of a small American city, so if you want to know how a city treats with it, go look at the number of cities in the United States…. our size where their leaders are up to their eyeballs with COVID problems, from burnt-out health staff to not enough equipment, to not enough morgue space “.
Rowley said he had received a “personal communication from people who want to sell alcohol in their establishment giving me proof from some quarter that COVID is a hoax. But whoever you are who sent me that this morning, you will see that you were blocked, because I will make no decision on that,” he added.