Find out why wi stay so

Find out why wi stay so

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

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Dear Editor,

It is clear that many of our citizens are simply not adhering to the public health protocols outlined by the Government of Jamaica. We see pictures of the parties. We hear of gatherings in excess of the allowable limit. Mask-wearing appears to be optional for many. The sound and sight of cars, trucks, and yeng yengs after 8:00 pm are all too common, forcing us to question if the curfew “still ah keep”.

The prime minister keeps urging and encouraging and imploring us to obey the rules for our own good and for the health of the nation and economy. We remain resolute in our defiance, though.

Last week, the police went to shut down a party in a particular community which was taking place within curfew hours with many, many people in attendance. The police were roundly attacked by the citizens and had to beat a hasty retreat.

If you question most people they can explain why the protocols that are in place are in place. We understand at an intellectual level the need to cover our noses and mouths and practise physically distancing from each other in order to protect ourselves against this novel coronavirus that is wreaking havoc the world over. We have had expert technical explanations and advice every step of the way here in Jamaica from our chief medical officer and national epidemiologist. So why aren't we doing the right thing?

The instinctive response to this question is: Jamaicans too undisciplined! What we need is enforcement. Is that correct? Who has stopped to ask why are we so undisciplined? Has anyone given any thought at all to the great cost that enforcement as a practice would amount to? We don't have enough boots on the ground, eyes in communities, space in lock-ups, nor personnel to process and ensure collection of fines to drive compliance via this method throughout the length and breadth of our island.

Here is where I find the silence from our behavioural scientists baffling and perplexing. I put it to you that the work of our virologists, epidemiologists and public health experts is no more important than the contribution to the war against the virus that ought to come from our sociologists and psychologists. You see, our virologists and epidemiologists can tell us about the virus and how it spreads. They can tell us what to do and what not to do in order to protect ourselves and others. But they can't tell us how to get the population, as a whole, to comply with these recommendations. Without a biological or pharmacological response in this war, and we have none yet, human behaviour is the only weapon we have at this time to slow the rate of spread and limit the catastrophic impact of the virus across our population. Clearly what is being done by way of urging and pleading is not working. And we can't afford the 'big stick' approach. What is needed is a deep understanding of the motivations that govern our actions in our specific Jamaican cultural context. What levers can our policymakers push and pull to get Jamaicans to commit to honouring the protocols as against mere compliance? Why aren't we hearing this sort of input from our behavioural scientists? We need you now more than ever. Talk up!

Kelly McIntosh

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