By Raffique Shah
October 19, 2014
Port of Spain, November 31, 2014: Reports that two persons stricken with the deadly Ebola virus were identified and isolated, one at the capital city’s general hospital, the other at the Mount Hope facility, have paralysed Trinidad and Tobago, literally shutting down the country.
There is an eerie silence across the country, at least those parts that this reporter reached by car, restricted as I was since petrol stations, like most essential services, ceased to function last Friday when rumours that Ebola had arrived sent the nation into panic.
Within minutes of several radio stations announcing the “unconfirmed reports”, Trinidadians abandoned their jobs and rushed to supermarkets and other food stores, stripping the shelves of everything edible. Most of them did not have to pay for their purchases because employees had also joined in stocking up on food and water.
Schools closed, courts and government offices emptied, shops closed, police officers were seen fleeing the city, and traffic gridlock gripped all exits from Port of Spain. As I tried to ascertain how widespread the chaos was, I telephoned colleagues and friends in other towns and districts, all of whom were also rushing to reach the safety of their homes.
It was bad, I gathered. There was one-way traffic throughout the country: homeward bound. Efforts to reach medical personnel to confirm or deny the reports of Ebola victims were futile. They, too, were busy heading home.
I got one prominent doctor and asked how could he and his colleagues abandon the hospitals during this grave crisis. “Grave is correct!” he muttered. “You want to do the job? Go to the hospital, nah! Besides, the Government has not agreed to the $10,000 a day danger money we asked for, and the $10 million risk insurance. Ah gone!”
By Friday night, the city that never sleeps was a ghost town. Heading to Ariapita Avenue where I thought I would encounter “Ebola parties” (well, there were “curfew parties” during two emergencies) and get the pulse of the people, I met shuttered doors and darkness.
A lone bake-and-shark vendor was excited to see another human being: “Borse, yuh must be hungry…mow many yuh buying?” I ordered two and asked, “How come you outside? You ‘ent fraid Ebola?” “Borse, the way I catching hell, Ebola cyah kill me…I done dead already!”
The Prime Minister addressed the nation on the lone functioning television station. She was dressed in a peach Pierre Cardin hazmat suit with golden Gucci boots and Oakley goggles. From the sanctum of her home, she said that her government’s plans for the arrival of Ebola had “kicked in”, and citizens should not be afraid.
“All will be well. I am advised by the Minister of Health that the two victims are as isolated as can be…not even nurses or doctors or other patients are close to them. We shall conquer Ebola much like we did our political enemies. Stay calm…your Prime Minister is running the country from my bedroom.”
Hmmm. I call the Health Minister—maybe he, being a doctor, is up on the ward leading the charge. “Ah, Doc,” I say when he answers, “have you contained the Ebola attack?” I hear voices and music in the background: we ready, we ready, we ready. “How de hell you get my number?” Slam!
I retire that night at the city hotel where I have camped out to cover the crisis, one of four or five guests, the rest foreigners, one from an international press agency. No staff is on duty, so we have the run of the place, quite literally, including preparing our meals.
Saturday morning, I strike up a conversation with the AFP correspondent. He tells me he spent most of Friday night trying to assess how the country was responding to the outbreak, which, he stressed, had yet to be confirmed. In a drive that took him through east, central and south Trinidad, other than stray dogs and the odd vagrant, there was no sign of normal Trini life—music, drinking, liming. People had battened down behind locked doors.
“But the PM said last night that the two victims had been isolated,” I defended. “Well, seeing that the entire Cabinet fled the city by helicopter when they first heard the rumour, I don’t know that she knows the truth. And if isolation means abandonment, then sure, if there are indeed victims, they are very isolated.”
Ah shame now, eh, but I must stand for country if not for king or queen. “Look, Ebola is a nasty one…the government and people right to run and hide…”
“Hay, admit it: you people are cowards!’ he snarled. “In Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, which are poverty-stricken countries with minimal services, fewer than 0.001 per cent of people are infected, fewer than 20 per cent of victims die, most recover with no medication, and they are facing the crisis head-on!”
More shame—but I must defend my country. “Look, buddy, we will rise…er, come out of this crisis with fewer deaths than anywhere else…”
“Fewer deaths from Ebola, my friend,” he retorted. “But deaths from fright will kill allyuh!”
9 thoughts on “Ebola: panic paralyses nation”
On Friday night I saw the movie The Equalizer (Denzel Washington)much to my enjoyment.On Saturday night came home around 11:00 p:m (PST),and for some inexplicable reason turned on my computer;visited the T&T website,and reasoned that either Martin Daly,Sunity Maharaj or Shah just “might arouse my intellect”
Much to my horror the headline:”Ebola:panic paralyses nation”..my heart sunk…until…”we ready,we ready we ready.How de hell you get my number?”..Slam!….Literally,I fell out of my chair with laughter,and almost choked on a sip of tea.Then came the inquiry..”Are you O.K?”
Unable to speak;I pointed to my computer screen;crawled on my hands and knees around the coffee table.Thanks Shah! late-night comedy writers on American television “should offer you a position”..It’s three minutes after midnight;still I am unable to read the entire article…..bon soir!
The average Trini fraid to die. Yesterday it was AIDS, today it is Ebola. But then who can judge the average Trini when the international agencies are struggling to understand the virus itself. Reminds me of the days when the South African doctor got international recognition for performing heart transplants. This time round it is not surprising how some of these agencies are experimenting in the African Continent only for relief medication to be developed in the metropolitan countries. Oops! a Pandora’s box has now been opened!
Loyal Trini:thanks for the link.Sometimes,life is tough;nonetheless,”tough” is preferable to its opposite.Life is a precious gift from Almighty God.
“We never had any p roblems…t his is the first time I ever saw him li,ke this….”
‘like most relationships, they would break up, but come back together and try to make up.’
Somewhere out there in lala land, lifetime sicual activist/Fired PP MP, in Mama Verna St Rose , is having a good laugh,at de follies of these political comedians, and handlers, ain’t she folks?
Yeah Royal Trini, but during your Auntie Kamla’s reign , more women would die, due to domestic violence , exhibited by dem savages, in your Trinidad, than of African derived Ebola – unless some know how to skillfully use a weapon, and fabricate a plausible story, that won’t fool anyone, ehhhh mi Pizzano?
Oops, and back to de issue at hand …ummmm Ebola scare.
Ah tell you …these ‘square pegs in round holes,’ cannot even handle, a common cold , or chicken pox outbreak, if such get out of hand , but they are babbling om incessantly about more dangerous diseases ,such as Ebola.
As my late, extremely wise, Tobago Granny ,would often say, to yours truly, back in de days-“lord put ah hand, and if you can’t, then put a foot!”
I luv dis kand, Y tu?
Show some wisdom and widen your horizons here and move your self from this self-imposed enslavement of parochial thinking. Just as Anthrax has been used as a biological weapon at international scale (by the way did you received an envelope with some white powder), the Americans are the big time inventors of biological and chemical weapons but do they use it? It’s the folly of Iraq, Syria etc. that tend to use such on their own people. When the Vietcong got the upper hand on the Americans did the Americans hesitate to use napalm, literally burning people alive. Dig into some research and you would see where the Ebola virus has been developed along time ago, got out of hand but they were able to contain such over a decade ago. Now look and see where it was developed again, just as the so called research on some monkeys and the AIDS encroachment. Plaudits must go out to statesmen like Nyere, Kenyatta etc. I do have to agree with you there are some monkeys here in T&T who are good in imitating overseas leaders unfortunately Putin getting his b—- squeezed right now. The message here is:
Great article as usual… had me in stitches.
On a serious note, EVD cannot be allowed to reach any Caribbean country… none of them are ready and I can see our small chain of countries being quickly wiped out.
Who de hell he think he is folks, Noam Chomsky? Quit regurgitating ancient theories, about issues you have no clue about , or even care Trini Royal.Stick instead to Bophal disaster,bride burning , Kashmir,and discrimination against your people, by dem envious Afro Trinis.
As one of the PP cyber spokesperson, instead why not if you dare , try and enlighten us about contingency plans your Siparia Queen , and her government has for protecting citizens , if any deadly disease,envelope our country, or major disaster , take place here.
Let me guess what you are about to say Trini Royal:-Griffy de Tin pan soldier , turn National Security big wig, is planning to stuff as many of us in those overpriced, useless,Yankee originatrd ,military tanks he purchased to allegedly fight crimes, and the rest in the futuristic OVP ship replacement, that dem equally crooked Chinese, are planning to build , for us to one day protect our water borders.
Oh Afro-Buddha-SunGod,grant mercy, if possible , and was this what desperate voters envisage , when they opted for Basedo’s female protégé, over the clueless, delusional, phony Christian , political eveready bunny Patrick?’
‘Me Think not!’
Go figure why Eric Williams had to fire ANR who was waxing warm the chair and going through the drawers of the PM desk? I often wander what type of cop you really were? Was bullying, intimidation, presently discrediting and disrespectful to past and present PMs etc. your mantra for the day? That’s why you had so much headaches after performing your duty that you had to offer some sacrifice to ‘Oh Afro-Buddha-SunGod’. Get a life and grow up for heaven sake! You seem to suffer a double whammy of prejudices of all races except your own!
Yeah Trini Royal, you stay in your self loathing world , and ponder what kind of Cop I was , or why Papa Deffy Eric fired the ambitious ANR Robinson, then punish Tobago at every turn ,while elevating ungrateful others.
I for one, and most of T&T , know fully well, why ANR fired the insobordinate Fadah of your nation, in National divider in Chief ,Papa Baz, and his two side kicks Ramnath, and Sudama, and why they in turn encouraged the tribe, to run to distant shores ,and tarnished the image of their country, with bogus Refugee claims.
We know why Basedo , and his morally repugnant , AG/personal lawyer Ramesh ,were conveniently out of Parliament , during the ill fated Coup attempt , by former Islamist horse police, Lennox Phillips, aka Yasin Abu Bajr, and his cuddled goons.
We know why , said ANR , got his sweet revenge , as President , by denying Baz , a second crack at the PM job , opting instead , to give the nod to de Sando Christian geologist ,Patios.
Need we wonder why , Baz, still fuming from denial of power , did not have the guts to pay tribute to a globally admired statesman, and courageous political lion , and even attend T&T’s most honest ,politician funeral?
What is sad is that this Trini Royal , is not even smart enough to tell , when someone, loves, or hate him, and kind.
He claims your truly “..have prejudices of all races , but my own , “but is busy complimenting Sat Maraj,Auntie K spiritual adviser , who daily wishes hell fire damnation of anyone African- including little Afro Trini , kinky head kids , who goes to his state financed Hindu schools. Yeah ,Go figure!
When his leaders locked in their delusional superior prisons , systematically indulge in revolting , discriminatory practices , once in power , they view that as self love , and creating level playing field.
When others strive to expose their country destroying follies, while simultaneously trying to wake their own out of their socially comatose state, they in turn are described as prejudiced.
Wake up mi Amigo, for it is I who have your back, and hope that our T&T don’t degenerate to some tribal conflict zone, due to overreach by your political, and civic lenders , in and out of power.
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