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If you can take credit, you should take the criticism as well, Dr Tufton

Monday, September 28, 2020

This newspaper believes that, locally, the devastation caused by COVID-19 is comparable to that wrought by natural disasters such as Hurricane Charlie in 1951 and Hurricane Gilbert in 1988.

Indeed, the entire world is under the 'hammer' as the global death toll from the pandemic climbs beyond the one million mark.

In Jamaica, the fear factor caused by the threat to health and life is terrible by itself.

But also, the national economy is struggling to breathe.

Thousands of people have lost their jobs or have seen their wages drastically cut as employers hang on by metaphoric finger nails.

Education of the nation's children has been severely dislocated with face-to-face school shut down since March because of the need for social/physical distancing protocols associated with the pandemic. Planned 'virtual' reopening starting next week seems fraught with difficulties.

Day-to-day life has been disrupted as never before. People now rely on online technologies to work from home rather than the office, to attend meetings, funerals, weddings, parties, et al.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton points to the mental toll caused by these strange times, with young people being particularly vulnerable.

Inevitably, there is much scrutiny of national leadership.

Most people feel that up to now — with the virus in its community-spread phase — the Government has done a fair job in its management of the threat.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) heaped praise, and this newspaper, among many other local voices, have applauded.

Crucially, the Jamaica Labour Party's massive September 3 election victory suggests — notwithstanding an unprecedented low voter turnout — that most Jamaicans are satisfied with Government's management of the crisis.

But we mustn't kid ourselves, the Government has also made serious mistakes. We note an allegation that it ignored advice from its own experts regarding 'Emancipendence' celebrations. We have heard no denial.

Aspects of election campaign conduct, such as ludicrous 'drive-throughs', which had the effect of encouraging large gatherings of people — in breach of social/physical distancing protocols — were reprehensible, as were some election day activities.

In the context of all of the above, we note with concern Dr Tufton's dismay at what he seems to consider unfair criticism.

He says the Government is “committed to the COVID-19 response” and seems to suggest that there should not be a discussion “around who may be playing or who has dropped the ball or who is dropping the ball”.

Says Dr Tufton: “Where there may be shortcomings, if people identify concerns, what we do is discuss them and find solutions to them, because during this phase of the community transmission it requires all hands on deck and requires everyone to be a part of the process...”

We trust the minister understands that even in this time of crisis, when all hands must be on deck, those outside of Government, including ordinary citizens, the media, political opposition, professional groups, lobby groups, and others, have a sacred duty to 'bawl out' when something is seen to be going wrong.

They would be very irresponsible not to.