If we're to beat the greatest challenge of our time


If we're to beat the greatest challenge of our time

Friday, January 01, 2021

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Such has been the effect of the novel coronavirus, many people are struggling to remember what it was like just a year ago — January 1, 2020 — when the great majority of us had never even heard of the mysterious illness causing concern in China.

It is testimony to our intricately linked, fast-moving world that by the end of March the pandemic had overtaken lives everywhere to such an extent there seemed, at times, to be little else for Jamaicans to contemplate, despite chronic crime and looming elections — the latter eventually held in September.

Battered and bruised, the world is exiting 2020 with more than 1.8 million people recorded as having lost their lives to the dreadful respiratory illness.

Statistics for Jamaica up to yesterday showed 12,827 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 302 deaths. The prayer and hope as Jamaicans enter 2021 is that the expected surge as a result of activities over the Yuletide season will not materialise.

The pressure on public and private health services was immense in 2020, with health workers going way beyond the call of duty to serve their people. Likewise, the security forces, fire fighters, etc, have been steadfast on the front line. And we can't forget educators — forced from physical classroom for months because of social distancing protocols — who have stayed true to their students and their calling, using emerging communication technologies.

Linked to the COVID-19-induced pressure on social services has been an economic crisis on a global scale, unprecedented since the Great Depression of 90 years ago.

The collapse of global leisure travel and the widespread closure of borders in March left Jamaica's life-giving tourism industry suspended for months, with horrendous effects across all sectors.

We are told that in excess of 100,000 jobs may have been lost in Jamaica and many small businesses closed or scaled back.

Yet it was not all doom and gloom. True to the human spirit, some have taken advantage of new or expanded niches in areas such as online and delivery services.

The technology-driven, work-from-home mode of operation in sales and assorted service sectors of the economy, which has long been on the rise, took off with a vengeance as a result of the pandemic, and in the long run seems likely to benefit most employers and employees, as well as reduce road traffic.

And, despite an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, the roll-out of vaccination programmes across the developed world has brought hope entering 2021.

Crucially, for Jamaicans who will have to wait for such a programme to take effect here, there has to be continued vigilance in obeying the simple, preventive protocols including mask-wearing, social distancing, and good hygiene.

It helps that at the level of political leadership both sides are agreed on the approach to COVID-19, encouraging adherence to the protocols, and accepting of the vaccines when such become available.

Ultimately, Jamaicans of all stripes will have to walk in step during 2021, if the nation is to beat the greatest challenge of our time.

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