ON THURSDAY, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh revealed the results of a Global Information System mapping of covid19 cases, overlaid with the location of primary and secondary contacts for cases identified in Trinidad. The map tracks closely, after contact tracing lines are drawn, with population centres and the mass transit routes that are the arteries of travel between cities and large towns in this country.
The difficulty that citizens have been demonstrating with the command to stay at home and limit contact with other people demands more of this type of conceptual anchoring, visuals and graphics that explain the cold reality of announced numbers. The people of TT should take no solace in the concentration of cases and links along the east-west corridor and north-south highway links.
It’s not that those who live in the central and south-east of the country are safe. The mapping so far only shows what we know of the movement of verified cases and those they have come into contact with.
Doctors are learning more about the infectious range and tenacity of the covid19 virus, but the known capacity of the virus to travel with apparently healthy people who present no symptoms should give us all cause for concern. It would take only one person travelling from Port of Spain or Arima to Toco or Moruga who then chooses to mingle carelessly on arrival for the mapping of last week to change dramatically.
Even worse, the Government’s ability to handle cases through its public health clinics drops off significantly the further from population centres the infection travels.
The Government must bring more innovative thinking to its efforts to deliver this critical message to the nation. The regular postings to social media are sensible and appreciated as are the increasingly exasperated pleadings of the Prime Minister, but what’s needed to reach our remotest areas are some mid-20th century messaging systems that might seem unfashionable to the digitally savvy.
It may take a campaign of pamphleteering and poster distribution, more use of public announcement trucks and other street-level messaging systems to amplify the reach of ideas that must reach everyone to have the necessary effect.
Some of those messages must specifically target the elderly, some of whom are defaulting to a stubborn insistence on carrying on as usual, the stunning example of police having to break up a game on the Brian Lara Promenade offering only one example.
Our culture is lubricated by liming, the affable gathering of friends in the pursuit of amusement. It takes a lot of explanation, robustly repeated, to explain the danger and potential lethality of this prized cultural trait.