Nobody signed up for this COVID-19, Dr Chang, Mrs Johnson Smith


Nobody signed up for this COVID-19, Dr Chang, Mrs Johnson Smith

Sunday, May 17, 2020

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The more perceptive people will begin to detect a gradually rising level of stress and possibly fatigue, if not frustration, among the front line Government leaders in the fight against COVID-19.

In truth, no one signed up for the drama and destructiveness of this coronavirus which has, in a mere four months, completely upended our lives to the extent that things will never be the same again.

Without doubt, this COVID-19 challenge is the greatest test of any Government since Jamaica attained Independence in 1962. This is a make or break moment that will either hand back the reins of Government to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) or hand it over to the People's National Party (PNP).

If we wish to be fair, we would concede that the current Administration is doing well, on balance, in its handling of the crisis, which is partially why the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Executive Board approved Jamaica's request for emergency financial assistance of about US$520 million to help meet the urgent balance of payments needs stemming from the pandemic.

“The Jamaican authorities have adopted timely and targeted measures to boost health spending and mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, supporting jobs and vulnerable segments of the population,” the IMF said.

The front line leaders in the battle with the coronavirus — Prime Minister Andrew Holness; Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton; Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith; National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang; and Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett — are mostly holding it together under trying conditions.

Still, it is important to recognise the burden is weighing heavily on them, some more than others who are probably not getting enough sleep or not managing their time well enough to handle the stress and get adequate rest.

For example, faced with complaints from Jamaicans that they were not properly fed on the long flight home from London, Mrs Johnson Smith inartfully informed them it was not “a luxury flight”.

Then Dr Chang, responding to Opposition advocacy on behalf of the estimated 1,000 cruise ship workers clamouring to come home, said the Government could not “let them loose on the population”.

Ministers are human beings, but they must never forget that they were elected to serve Jamaicans and especially those in greatest need. They should, therefore, not be treated as if a favour is being done in getting them back to Jamaica, or, in the case of Dr Chang, as if they are lepers who must not be let loose on the rest of us.

Jamaicans are known to complain and loudly. It's a trait that endears us to others overseas who see us as courageous enough to stand up for our rights. The desperation among those stranded abroad was captured by this young woman in Barbados:

“I do not think the Government is doing enough for us. I called and I don't get any response. I sent e-mails, I have sent Instagram messages, I have written to the minister and to the prime minister. I called the consulate and she said we should stop calling her phone because she doesn't have any information, and when she gets something, she will tell us. Basically, me sleeping on the street is what my Government wants.”

There are enough reasons to be patient in letting them know why they can't be allowed home with the speed they desire.

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