Making it a safe Christmas

Making it a safe Christmas

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, November 23, 2020

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Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie has given a stern warning: With 70,000 expected arrivals of Jamaicans for the Christmas holidays, we may very well see a COVID-19 spike in January. Oh, no!

We have been counting the days for 2020 to be over, please give us a break 2021!

On the positive side, scientists are saying that if 95 per cent of the population would wear a mask we could get COVID-19 under control and two vaccines should be available in a few months.

We Jamaicans have been fortunate that our leaders have not politicised mask-wearing, yet as we move around we notice that less than half of folks are not wearing masks.

We should be aware that over 90 people are now in hospital here with COVID-19. Older people are the majority of those who have died from the virus. As much as grandma and grandpa will be happy to see family returning from abroad, the welcome home hugs have to be replaced by blown kisses.

Further, we hear that people arriving from abroad think it is clever that they can dodge the authorities by breaking quarantine and gathering with friends at popular hangouts.

There are many young people who are COVID-19-positive and asymptomatic. That one hug could be a death sentence for an elder, so, please, restrain yourselves.

As for family dinners, I admit I am in a state. How can I face Christmas without preparing a feast for all the people I love so much? But I must accept that for their safety and ours; we have to stay in our bubble. Let us try to live to see another Christmas where we can finally get together. We can deliver Christmas treats to our loved ones and plan a FaceTime or a Zoom Christmas get-together. Our family enjoyed a Zoom Mothers' Day brunch, showing off dishes and toasting each other.

It is beyond belief that there was a mob killing of a police officer who had tried to break up a party which was breaching curfew.

Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters' Association (JMEA) President Richard Pandohie is appealing for a later curfew time over the holiday season, but that will only happen if, right away, we work with our families and communities to mask up and keep infection numbers down. Come November 30 the prime minister will have to listen to the health experts before he reviews the hours.

Meanwhile, let us look at organising ourselves to get out earlier to do our shopping. We were pleasantly surprised to know we could call ahead to Island Grill and skip the line to collect our order. Our Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) shopper Charmaine has also organised with seniors to collect their purchases at various supermarkets if they call in their orders, and National Health Fund (NHF) will deliver prescriptions drugs to persons over 65.

We are sad to hear that the global death toll for COVID-19 has passed 1.3 million, and we grieve with members of our Jamaican Diaspora, and indeed our entire human family, who are mourning their loss. Let us do our best to avoid becoming another COVID-19 victim.

Boost for special needs

Over the years thousands have gathered in downtown Kingston for Jamaica's first-ever night run — the Digicel 5K for Special Needs. This year the company has had to find a way around COVID-19, staging a virtual 5K last month and inviting the Jamaican Diaspora to join in.

Last week the Digicel Foundation was able to present a total of $7.5 million to the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, Jamaica Autism Support Association, Early Stimulation Plus, the Jamaica Downs Syndrome Foundation, and the Promise Learning Centre.

In addition to the building and renovation of 10 special needs schools, the foundation recently partnered with the Ministry of Education to establish two new schools for special needs — Rosebank School (formerly Rosebank Primary) in St Mary, and the Pear Tree River School in St Thomas.

It is heartening to see the progress made by special needs students when they have the right teachers and facilities to help them develop their skills.

Oliver Samuels honoured

Oliver Samuels, the only CCRP Living Legacy honoree this year, shared his love for theatre and his dedication to those in need at a recent live broadcast from the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) studio. He is celebrating his 50th year in Jamaican theatre and shows no sign of slowing down.

He describes cultural icon Louise Bennett-Coverley (“Miss Lou”) as his mentor. After a pantomime performance early in his career he recalls Miss Lou asking him: “Likkle boy, where yuh come from?” He was thrilled when his idol told him that his recital of her poem Love Letter was the best interpretation she had ever heard.

Samuel's innate generosity and empathy with ordinary Jamaicans is a quality that has remained with him throughout his career. He has donated proceeds of his productions to several good causes. He has also been a mentor for many young people — his own children, as well as many others he has “taken under his wing”. He maintains that his children are his greatest blessing in life.

That call to Prince Phillip

As I watched season four of Netflix series The Crown, which focuses on the British royal family, I recalled the day that I had an actual telephone conversation with the Duke of Edinburgh. It was the summer of 1966 and the Duke and Princess Anne were in Jamaica for the Commonwealth Games.

We were at home on holidays and we had read that the royals were staying at the Olympia Hotel. Our parents were out, so this daring teenager decided that she would call the hotel and ask to speak with the prince. You can imagine my shock when the operator put me through, and I heard this lovely voice saying, “Hello?”

My siblings can attest that I asked first if this was Prince Phillip, to which he answered, “Yes,” then I asked if he was the Duke of Edinburgh and, sounding a bit amused, he again said, “Yes.” Well, at that point I lost my nerve and said, “It was nice to speak with you Sir. Goodbye.”

He was kind enough to stop me, ask my name, and say it was a nice name. I was able to stutter that I hoped he would enjoy his visit and asked him to say hello to The Queen. He said he would, and we ended the call.

Well, you can imagine the breathless laughter with my sisters and brother. Our dad, an ex-Royal Air Force man, was strict on protocol, so we were afraid to tell him. He finally learned about it a few weeks later and was delighted, only sorry we didn't tell him earlier as he said he would have called The Gleaner to report it.

When my sister told her classmate, she tried to call Princess Anne the next day, but she didn't have the same luck.

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