Government's response to COVID-19 has parts missing

Letters to the Editor

Government's response to COVID-19 has parts missing

Monday, April 06, 2020

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Dear Editor,

The Andrew Holness-led Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic was timely when it came to closing our borders, preparing quarantine facilities and hospitals, social distancing, hand-washing education, and banning large gatherings. But beyond that there is much more that could and should have been done.

1) There ough to have been much better tracing of the 5,000+ people who arrived between March 18-23, 2020 and have remained. It should have been done door to door from the start, not a voluntary phone-in. Some of the police are still engaged in almost-pointless, random road checks.

We have not yet been told how many of these 5,000 have been located and what is their situation. This is where South Korea and Singapore did well, and it doesn't require a national identification system (NIDS) by the way.

2) Testing should have been ramped up from the start, including of health care workers and other random tests in every parish. It appears we have the capacity to do 1,260 tests per week (soon to be increased). And yet only a few hundred tests have been carried out in the last three weeks. If this is because health workers are fearful of the cough or sneeze when the person is being tested, then surely good face masks and screens could have been provided to this relatively small number of people.

3) The wearing of masks when out in public should have been made as important as hand-washing — which should have been made mandatory at the entrance to every business and office building. Even non-surgical masks would have been better than nothing, and these could have been made freely available though local manufacturers. Just remember how quickly shopping bags arrived on the scene after the scandal bag ban. National media could also have been used to show us how to make our own masks using T-shirt material, etc, which have at least a 50 per cent effectiveness (80+ per cent for surgical masks). Any mask would be better than nothing.

4) Use of hotels for the aged and medically vulnerable from high-density communities, again with daily temperature tests for all, should have been implemented already. This is where our affluent private sector could have assisted, with hoteliers being aided by our many wealthy financiers and financial institutions who have shown to be, after all, not the essential sector they like to paint themselves as.

The nightly curfew may just get more people to take the whole matter more seriously, even if its effectiveness on the spread of the virus may be less than its effect on crime. But, overall, let us be more proactive, and let us encourage the Government to be innovative before escalation occurs to the point of no return.

Paul Ward

Oracabessa, St Mary

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