Dr Tufton has no time to wallow in self-pity


Dr Tufton has no time to wallow in self-pity

Thursday, July 23, 2020

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It is safe to assume that Dr Christopher Tufton did not sign up for the battle against the pandemic called the coronavirus when he accepted the appointment as minister of health and wellness in March 2016.

But, almost four years to the day, in March 2020, he found himself in the position as front man for the Andrew Holness Administration, as the country faces one of humankind's worst disasters and the biggest test of any Jamaican Government.

Unfortunately for Dr Tufton he does not have time to wallow in self-pity, despite the brutal social media assault on him in the past week and a half regarding his private and public life. He cannot lose the energy or the motivation to get up each morning to tackle the COVID-19 enemy.

The truth is that COVID-19 is not going away. We had got accustomed to the steady drip, drip of two and three confirmed cases a day, until July 19, when it suddenly jumped to 16 cases, followed by 19 cases on July 20.

We are also aware that an estimated 10,000 test results are outstanding, which suggests that, at a rate of 10 per cent, we have another 1,000 positive cases yet to be diagnosed, plus the number of people to whom they were exposed and who could contract the virus.

And yet, as tempting as it might be to take the easy way out, Jamaica cannot choose the path of The Bahamas, which has announced it will, beginning next Wednesday, close its borders to travellers from the United States, our main tourist market.

As high as 70 per cent of visitors to Jamaica come from the US, and as many as 24 flights arrive in Montego Bay and Kingston daily. The pain of cutting that off would be excruciating.

We in this space are inclined to take the position of the umbrella Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) which has rejected closing up shop again, and instead urge the Government and our people to redouble our efforts in the fight against the coronavirus.

We could admit that, as a country, we are quite lucky so far that our COVID-19 case total is as low as it is — 809 confirmed cases at Jamaica Observer press time. While we mourn the 10 Jamaicans who have passed, our COVID-19 mortality rate could easily have been much higher.

From one end of the island to the next, Jamaicans can be seen intermingling without face coverings, for the most part, or with masks being worn under the chin. As to social distancing, that is not in their lexicon.

In that regard, it was good to see the entire staff of the Royalton Negril hotel rigorously observing COVID-19 protocols last weekend when the resort enjoyed 40 per cent occupancy.

The Government must continue to drive home the message to Jamaicans that everyone must take responsibility for his or her own safety. The Administration must resolve the Market Me controversy and let it get on with the job of public education, or replace the company, whichever is more appropriate.

Let us do whatever it takes to ramp up testing by significantly reducing the 10,000 backlog. Pretesting protocols for travellers, especially from COVID-19 hot spots, must be insisted upon, without flinching.

At a time like this, Dr Tufton must be fully on the job. If he can't, he must say so.

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