By Trevann Hamilton
At the time this article was written Jamaica would have confirmed 6,555 cases with 4,363 of them being active cases. Unfortunately, 111 lives have been lost as a result of this virus and by the look of things, more lives will be lost in the coming months.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) declared in September that we were experiencing community spread. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health, was quoted in an article on the MOH website saying, “Community transmission means the inability to relate confirmed cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases, and the increasing positive tests through sentinel samples, especially from persons coming to health centres and hospitals.”
He continued by saying, “In making this declaration, we are alerting the public that the transmission of the virus can no longer be easily traced from one member of the population to the other and that the concern for the transmission for COVID-19 is now islandwide.”
The article further explains that the country will see an increase in cases over the next few weeks.
So whose fault is it?
First of all, community spread was probably inevitable with all things considered. Every time the daily number of positive cases goes over 200 or even comes close to it, there is a hot debate on social media over whether or not the increase is as a result of personal irresponsibility or government irresponsibility. People debate for hours saying it is one or the other but I’m wondering why can’t it be both?
The Government’s Role
The government’s job is to put things in place to protect us – plain and simple. On one hand, they have put in place a curfew, instructed the elderly to stay at home, and instructed us to wear masks. I also appreciated the quarantining of particular communities that had high numbers of cases.
However, calling an election in the middle of a pandemic is not exactly advantageous to the fight against the coronavirus. People are hesitant to say the elections had anything to do with the rise in cases for a variety of reasons. Some may say that at their polling station there wasn’t a crowd and so this rise has nothing to do with the election. First of all, we’re in the phase of community spread. Unless COVID-19 is intelligent enough to respect democracy, there is no way to be 100% sure that the election and the election day activities didn’t contribute to the spread at all.
As a matter of fact, election day and nomination day usually means parties and gathering of people. Did the politicians have motorcades for the streets and sidewalks? No. It was for people who would naturally have gathered. I’m aware that in some instances, masks were given out but encouraging social distancing in those instances, while it’s the right thing to do, was likely to fall on deaf ears.
In addition to that, just as how the Easter weekend had strict rules, so should have the ‘Emancipendence’ weekend. Obviously, people were going to party and gather during that time. They weren’t allowed to but knowing that many would have, should have ushered in some new protocols.
Another thing I found interesting is how quick we were to close our borders to China in the beginning of the outbreak but opened to the United States when COVID-10 was raging (and still is..). I’m well aware that we need tourism revenue. There have been so many instances that have shown us that full reliance on tourism is not a great idea but here we are with another example.
Okay, fine. Our borders couldn’t stay closed indefinitely. That wouldn’t work. However, testing at airports should be mandatory and the two-week quarantine should be closely monitored and better enforced. People have always done what they wanted to do. For example, people don’t wear seatbelts even they should. But what does the state do? We fine people and find ways to encourage people to do the right thing. I’ll admit this has been done by the government. Many persons have been fined for breaching quarantine. Perhaps too many persons are coming in, making it hard for all to be tracked and monitored, but something has got to change.
Are people still being checked for masks on the road?
I also feel that working from home should be mandatory (for those who can) instead of being a mere suggestion. We know managers like to micromanage their employees but their need to micromanage is not more important than people’s health and safety.
I was pretty disappointed the last time protocols were being read out because it felt as though there was nothing much being done despite the spike in cases. I am aware that we’re in a recession and can’t afford to not capitalize on economic activity but lives matter too.
What We Have Been Doing Wrong
It would be totally disingenuous of me to say that we don’t all have personal responsibility. Of course, we do. I cannot imagine that people can even entertain the thought of being in a crowd when we’re recording 1,000 new cases per week. I know humans are social creatures and it’s natural for us to meet up and socialize but there are ways to do this safely. Not only are people gathering, but they’re also not wearing their masks. For some reason, Whatsapp messages that say masks have mics in them and that they’re harmful resonate more with people than scientists and health officials begging them to wear a mask.
The conspiracy theories surrounding masks are absolutely ridiculous. There are people who have always worn masks for hours at a time for their jobs and they are fine.
People complain that they want the coronavirus to go away but are doing everything in their power for it to stay. You can’t want the virus to leave and not follow protocols that will reduce the risk of spread. That doesn’t make any sense. Wearing a mask is half of the solution, washing your hands (which you should be doing anyway) shouldn’t be that hard.
I also can’t understand how people come into the country they claim to love and risk other people’s lives. They risk other people getting sick and overwhelming our healthcare system and for what? Beach trips and drives to KFC? We can’t afford to be that selfish. If you’re told to quarantine for two weeks in order to save lives, then do it. I’m well aware persons might be staying in dwellings where people are close but if we were all wearing our masks then the risk would be reduced.
I have not gone out to socialize since February. I have never left my house without a mask. I have been washing my hands very frequently and sanitizing everything. But yet, everything is getting worse. There is nothing more I can do personally. I am just deeply annoyed with how this virus is being handled by everyone.
I don’t have all the answers and that’s okay because it’s not my job to have the answers. The idea that people can’t complain without having viable solutions is ludicrous. It’s absolutely not my job to come up with solutions. The only thing I can do is follow the protocols and hope everyone does too.
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