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What really is the COVID-19 plan?

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Dear Editor,

Commendations to the Government for the transparency it has shown in the management of the novel coronavirus, especially in the first stages of the pandemic. We, however, need more concrete information on the way forward as community spread and deaths increase.

What are the short- and medium-term plans? Are we simply sitting around waiting for a vaccine or are we exploring the role of therapeutics (medication) which can negate the impact of COVID-19 in the early stages?

In terms of hospitalisation and death rates, countries in Africa are seemingly doing much better than expected. Perhaps the Caribbean should be focusing more on countries like Uganda, which has 44.27 million people and its total death from COVID-19 is 75.

How are Jamaica's COVID-19 deaths being reported? Dying with COVID-19 is different than dying from COVID-19. Hopefully this distinction is being made in our released statistics. In some Western countries there have been instances of people dying in motor vehicle accidents and inexplicably these deaths are attributed to COVID-19.

There was an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and the leading health organisations said that the treatment for SARS should be similar to that of patients with community acquired pneumonia. Why can't the same be done for COVID-19? The health organisations need to tell us why there is a rush for a vaccine when the research suggests that there are several effective therapeutics available.

Another issue to be examined is the survival rate. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the survival rate in the US by age group is: 0-19 (99.97 per cent); 20-49 (99.98 per cent); 50-69 (99.5 per cent); 70 and above (94.6 per cent).

Based on these statistics it is no surprise that a very low percentage of the US population has indicated that it is willing to take a vaccine at this time. In a recently held poll only 13 per cent of respondents in the USA said that they would be willing to take a COVID-19 vaccine. I suspect that the figure is lower in Jamaica.

The science supports a physical reopening of schools. The current state of affairs of online learning is going to exacerbate the problems in what the late former Prime Minister Edward Seaga famously called “the two Jamaicas”. The protocols can be followed and have schools reopened safely. It may seem strange to some, but schools are the only safe place for some students. Predators are more likely to attack when they know that children are unable to report the matter to their trusted teachers and guidance counsellors.

The Government also needs to relook at the regulations regarding funerals. It is culturally insensitive to say no funeral services can be held. If public gatherings are limited to 15 people then 15 people can also be allowed to gather in a formal, shortened service as well. Before this stipulation a number of churches were conducting funeral services responsibly by observing the required protocols. Prior to the latest regulation I went to pay my respects at one of these services and the COVID-19 protocols were fully observed. The ushers at the gate ensured that people paid their respects and then left in an orderly manner. Only the designated numbers were allowed to stay for the actual funeral service. If people can vote safely in Jamaica then people can pay their final respects to their loved ones in a safe and dignified manner.

I call on the Government to provide answers on the plans to deal with COVID-19, especially in the area of therapeutics.


Marsha Thomas