Two women in Port-of-Spain during curfew hours on the Indian Arrival Day public holiday (May 31, 2021)
“From midnight tonight.”
Maybe the most highly anticipated phrase uttered by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at his Covid-19 response media conferences.
It is at that juncture during his speech that citizens become fully alert as it signals his pronouncements of any new restrictions or adjustments to measures to try to stem the pandemic.
The popular refrain has become the subject of many jokes and memes on social media. But when the State of Emergency (SoE) was announced on May 15, 2021, it confirmed the sobering reality of the almost crisis proportions of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
However, further confirmation of the gravity of the situation came on May 29, 2021 when Dr Rowley alluded to tighter restrictions on two public holidays – Indian Arrival Day and Corpus Christi.
This was obviously to curtail movement that would have almost been certain, without the SoE, based on our behaviour as a people.
The images captured by media on the Indian Arrival Day and Corpus Christi holidays depicted the grim reality of an almost total shutdown of life on the nation’s highways and city streets.
“Ghost Towns” was the headline used by some media houses to describe what transpired on a national holiday – a stark contrast to what would have been the norm.
But as I looked through the images captured by AZPNews.com captioned Curfew Monday Montage on the Indian Arrival Day, one image evoked my emotions and thoughts.
At the door steps of a financial institution in Port-of-Spain, sat an elderly woman of Indian descent – her body keeled over and her two bags with her possessions were at her side. She was clearly asleep. That homeless woman’s plight brought a new perspective to me about the stay at home orders.
Living in Tobago for nearly ten years, the homeless, has been out of my mind. As is the norm with human nature, when something is in sight on regular basis, we become desensitised.
While the Ministry of Social Development announced re-housing plans for people who live on the streets during the SoE curfew, there are many homeless persons, like the elderly woman I saw, who chose to stay out on the streets.
I would imagine the decision to stay in a public space would be based on the need for security, as the chances of abuse or violations are decreased in the open. In contrast, there are some nationals who appear to have an insatiable need to be away from home. They defy the laws just to “run by a friend to bubble a pot” or find themselves in a “zesser” or “wesser” event.
Personally, it’s just incomprehensible that so many people would choose to put themselves in such predicaments. Defying the stay at home order not only exposes themselves, their families and friends to Covid-19, but also put them at risk of being on the wrong side of the law.
The irony is that since the Covid-19 pandemic, many families are barely sustaining themselves and are trying to save themselves and their children from living on the streets.
But the irresponsible and reckless behaviour of some nationals threatens to prolong this pandemic. If they’d follow the orders to stay away from the streets and follow the protocols, it will save many families from becoming homeless.
The next time you hear the prime minister announce, “From midnight tonight…” signaling a new stay at home order, spare a thought for those who have nowhere to stay.
See images of Trinidad during the curfew hours of Indian Arrival Day and Corpus Christi below: