Not business as usual

Letters to the Editor

Not business as usual

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

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Dear Editor,
The year 2020 will no doubt go down in history as one that changed the trajectory of nations worldwide. The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), now declared a pandemic, reportedly started in Wuhan city, China. This virus has walked from country to country, leaving nations crippled in fear, with a trail of death behind it.

One expert Dr Scott Gottlieb, a Pfizer board member and former US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, reports that: “We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

The scale of the problem is still unravelling, as Dr Anthony Fauci director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, declares that COVID-19 is considerably more dangerous than the common flu, with a higher mortality rate.

With many countries now scrambling to flatten the spread curve of the virus, thus reducing exponential growth and any strain on their health care system, the practice of social distancing with the closure of schools, restricting mass gatherings, and limiting movement is becoming the new norm.

The World Health Organization has now declared Europe as the new epicentre of the virus. Here in Jamaica we have seen imported cases which have resulted in travel restrictions placed on European countries, such as the UK, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany. Globally, economies are being impacted, and no country is exempt from this.

What is apparent is this virus does not discriminate and cares not for our social class, gender, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation, as we have seen politicians, celebrities, the rich and the poor alike contracting COVID-19. It is important to note that while figures suggest that the elderly are at greater risk, there are many in our society of all ages with underlying illnesses.

A country like the UK has taken a bizarre scientific approach, one of “Herd Immunity”, in which the Government and its scientific advisers initially opted not to encourage social distancing, but rather to have a large proportion of its population infected in hope of them becoming immune, thereby providing some protection to others who are not immune. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, instead of rallying his people and containing the spread of the virus, declared: “Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.” This strategy is now under scrutiny, where hundreds of UK scientists accused the Government of risking many more lives than necessary. The UK Government has since revised its position. Yet, schools remain open in London, where cases of infection are now reported as the highest in the UK.

Globalisation has taken a back seat with the free movement of people and goods severely impacted. We are now seeing a shift as countries employ a more nationalist approach, with borders closing and many people working from home.

It is important that we continue to maintain good relationships with our Caribbean partners and those farther afield as we work to combat the spread of the coronavirus. We must also share relevant intelligence as, once this global pandemic is over, we will need to rebuild our world.

Perhaps this is a good time for our leaders to take a more proactive strategy by investing significantly in entrepreneurship and our local manufacturers, relying less on the global supply chains. But also to educate and train our labour force to a higher level of skilled workers, positioning Jamaicans to compete in all industries and sectors, to meet the growing demands of a global marketplace.

We are at a critical stage of containment and mitigation of the virus in Jamaica, and I have no doubt that there will be many challenges ahead, I can only pray that our Government, by applying bipartisan efforts, will continue to put the health and safety of our people first and implement the measures that will protect the most vulnerable of our society.

What has become glaringly obvious with this new pandemic is this is not business as usual.

Vinnette Hall
Lecturer & PhD student

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