Keeping safe is in our hands

Editorial

Keeping safe is in our hands

Monday, June 22, 2020

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COVID-19 statistics up to yesterday showed in excess of 8.7 million cases across the globe with more than 460,000 deaths.

Worryingly, head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus reported Friday that the rate of infection is actually growing, with nearly half of new cases in the Americas, which, of course, includes the Caribbean.

In Jamaica, up to the weekend there were 657 cases with 10 deaths and 462 recoveries — a rate of 70 per cent.

We are told that in terms of testing for the virus the country has passed the 20,000 mark.

As was expected, with the re-entry programme for Jamaicans, and the phased reopening of the tourism industry, there has been a spike in imported cases of COVID-19.

The Ministry of Health tells us that on Saturday all five new cases were imported three from the United States and two from Canada.

Last week, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told the nation that the bulk of imported cases are from the United States. No surprise there, given the high rate of contagion in that country.

As well, we are not surprised at reports that some people are breaching home quarantine rules.

Make no mistake, it can't be easy for family members and loved ones returning home many of whom have not seen each other for months to avoid hugging, for example.

It's one of those cases in which it's easy to talk the good talk in relation to social/physical distancing, not so easy to do.

Also, for many people, 'caution fatigue' is setting in. Bear in mind that up to now the rate of confirmed contagion and, even more importantly, the rate of serious illness and death, has remained low.

As Dr Tedros has said, many people are “understandably fed up” with all the constraints.

The sense that to some extent those who should know have been feeling their way in the dark won't have helped.

This newspaper readily recalls that in March local health authorities were telling healthy Jamaicans there was no need to wear masks in public. Masks were most appropriate for sick people and caregivers, they said.

By April, the tune had entirely changed as local experts and the Government learnt more about the novel coronavirus.

Wear masks in public as well as maintain social/physical distancing, they unequivocally said.

Incredibly, it was only very recently that the WHO recommended that governments “encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult”.

Additionally, this newspaper recently reported complaints by patients that some health authorities are mismanaging the testing procedures.

Against that backdrop, a level of public cynicism is understandable.

But there can be no gainsaying that Jamaicans, like all people across the globe, must be guided by those who are studying the virus and should know best.

In that respect, as the number of arrivals increase in the coming days, weeks, and months, the authorities must double down on efforts to get everyone to practise all the recommended safety measures.

Crucially, community leaders and other responsible people at churches, bars, beaches, wherever, must do their utmost to encourage people to wear masks, maintain social distance, wash hands, and so forth.

Ultimately, keeping safe is in the hands of each and every one.


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