Editorials

A delicate balance

Societies have countless moving parts, deeply interconnected in ways most could scarcely imagine; even those who run them.

Trying to lock down a society and still allow it to function sensibly is a daunting, some might say impossible, task.

The prime minister, being the competent authority in charge of the current lockdown, and those advising him, have their work cut out for them.

However, this is our reality; and a delicate balance must be struck.

For example, when the first emergency order was declared on March 16, the Road Traffic Department first posted on its Facebook page that it would close.

A short while later, it posted on the same page that it would open the following day.

It made sense to open the department.

March is when commercial vehicles are to be registered, bringing in a windfall of government revenue.

It is money that will be desperately needed as government earning projections shift deeper into the red with each passing day.

However, when the prime minister expanded the curfew to 24 hours, and extended it into April, it complicated things.

The new curfew was instituted to remove people from the roads and to dramatically increase social distancing needed to flatten the curve of infection.

But people born in March were still required to license their personal vehicles before the end of the month.

This means that those people had to travel to Road Traffic during its previous operating hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This led to long lines, disordered attempts at social distancing, and ultimately, people having to violate the 24-hour curfew by driving to and from the department on a daily basis trying to get their personal vehicles registered.

In addition to this, until yesterday, insurance companies were not able to issue certificates required for registration because their offices were ordered closed.

Yesterday, the government allowed insurance companies to open their offices for the purposes of providing certificates for motor vehicles and extended the hours of the Road Traffic Department to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Yesterday being the last day of the month, it is doubtful that most people who were still required to get their vehicles registered were able to do so.

What the government should strongly consider is waiving the requirement for people to license their personal vehicles through the duration of the emergency orders.

And if the goal is to have fewer people moving about, what does it ultimately matter if their vehicles are licensed during this time?

We are, after all, in an emergency.

Personal vehicle licensing is not essential in these circumstances.

Commercial vehicle licensing should be accommodated and can be completed faster without people trying to license their personal vehicles as well.

And so it goes with many thousands of processes and routine interactions in society.

One shift here, causes an often unintended shift there.

There are many other considerations left in the lockdown as well.

The government today issued an order suspending the obligation to pay any insurance premium in respect of any health, medical and life insurance policy from March 17 for the duration of the current state of public emergency and extending 60 days thereafter.

The new order states, “Should any insured event occur giving rise to the liability of the insurer to pay a claim to the insured, the insurer shall honor the claim and only deduct the renewal fee and any deductible from the money paid under the claim.”

We were unaware the government could unilaterally change the terms of contracts.

How are insurance companies expected to pay out claims without collecting premiums for the next several months?

In another instance, public buses are prohibited from running, yet auto parts stores are closed.

Vehicles, like all machines, sometimes need to be repaired.

To the extent those businesses can operate without bringing people into the stores and could follow social distancing protocols, the government should consider exemptions in that case as well.

The same might apply to tire repair shops.

There is also a consideration to be made for allowing all money transfer services to operate under certain protocols.

With so many out of work, there are those who will rely on the kindness of others to make it through.

It won’t be easy figuring all this out.

Many businesses can make a case for being essential to society still functioning.

But allowing too many exemptions would defeat the intention of placing the country in a state of emergency in the first place.

The implications of each decision will have to be weighed to determine how best to accomplish equilibrium, and do as little harm as possible.

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