We are all exhausted by COVID-19, but...

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We are all exhausted by COVID-19, but...

Raulston Nembhard

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

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Almost a year into the novel coronavirus pandemic we have all become exhausted by the unrelenting pounding from the virus. Our lives have been dislocated in so many ways, with the ultimate tragic result of lives being lost and activities severely cauterised. Yet, despite our exhaustion — and the virus demonstrating that it never tires — we are at a point at which the threat that the virus presents is at its most worrying level. As things stand, we cannot afford to be exhausted by this virus.

What we face today cannot be minimised. It is only the foolish and the most callous among us who would minimise the threat we face, or who will behave as if the worst is behind us. The daily surge in viral infections has begun to take its toll on our hospitals. You only have to talk to our nurses and doctors on the front line in the hospitals to know the level of exhaustion that they are experiencing. Many are at the breaking point, and the only thing that seems to sustain them is their commitment to their core function of treating the sick and saving lives. In the face of COVID-19, this takes them beyond the mere parameters of the Hippocratic Oath.

Let us be clear about it, the stress that medical personnel are going through — the psychological trauma of seeing their patients die while they watch helplessly; the fear of themselves becoming infected and getting their family members and friends infected — is unparalleled in terms of what most of them have had to face in their medical careers. We have not had a pandemic of the nature of the one we are currently dealing with in our lifetime. The whole world, including members of the medical profession, are all going through a learning curve with respect to the virus. But for those on the front line of the fight, this has been a harrowing experience.

It has become even more so when you add the stress of the daily grind of trying to survive in a society whose economic prospects leave people with little hope. Not to mention, in Jamaica, navigating the ever-present threat of violent criminality.

Our nurses and doctors are among the best trained in the world, and as such they are being aggressively recruited abroad. They are promised better wages and benefits, and there is no doubt that many will opt for this way out. And this at a time when we may need to recruit doctors and nurses ourself to complement the harangued group that is bravely soldiering on. And this, too, at a time when we are becoming so overwhelmed or preoccupied by COVID-19 that other serious illnesses are not getting the attention they ought.

The appeal, therefore, goes out to all of us to become even more careful now in containing the virus than we have ever been. Exhaustion is not an option at this point. Exhaustion breeds complacency, and complacency leads to surges in the virus and its replication or mutation into new strains. It follows, like clockwork, that the more people who become infected with the virus the more who will end up in hospitals and who are likely to die from the virus. Also, as the scientists tell us, the more of the virus we have around is the greater the possibility of it mutating to new variants. And the virus is working very hard to stay ahead of us through its variants. Several of these have developed in different parts of the world. I am no scientist, but I suspect, from my common sense reading of the situation, that it is not far-fetched that we can have our own Jamaican variant of the virus if we do not work hard to suppress it.

The appeal to personal responsibility has become, for some, an abstract appeal intended to keep people from having fun. But this is what the moment demands. Each one of us has a responsibility to steadfastly uphold what we have been doing since February 2020 to keep the virus under control. This means wearing masks, keeping our physical distancing, sanitising, and washing our hands frequently.

At the beginning of COVID-19 we did well when we were driven by fear. We need not be fearful now, but we need to be alert and vigilant. It cannot be left to the Government to force us to do the basic things that can keep our families, friends, and ourselves safe and alive. Until we can vaccinate most of the population and develop some herd immunity we have to observe the tried and proven protocols to control the spread of the virus. Complacency can become the greatest vector for the spread of the virus. This we cannot afford. Neither can we afford exhaustion.

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the book WEEP: Why President Donald J. Trump Does Not Deserve A Second Term . Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or stead6655@aol.com.


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