Basic community organisation can help, PMWednesday, March 03, 2021
The difficulties faced by the authorities in trying to keep the COVID-19 health crisis under some degree of control are extreme. Hence our sympathies for Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his Cabinet in arriving at the latest disaster risk management measures aimed at halting the frightening surge.
Lest we forget, since the outbreak began last year March, COVID-19 had taken 432 lives in Jamaica up to yesterday, and has brought hospitals and health services close to the edge.
However, regarding disaster risk management, we think the Government sometimes shoots itself in the foot with inconsistencies, which, in our view, fuel public cynicism.
An example of this, we believe, is the decision to halt funerals while allowing weddings to continue, albeit with reduced numbers of guests, etc. We believe there would have been no harm done to the noble institution of marriage had there been a suspension of wedding ceremonies.
Inevitably, cruel jokes are making the rounds which do no good for the credibility of governance.
There have been other unsettling inconsistencies, such as during last year's election campaign when ludicrous political campaign 'drive-throughs' were allowed across the country, even as people were being told to obey social distance protocols and to avoid crowds.
And we note that, up until the latest measures, churches were being allowed to hold services — with pastors, church elders, and congregants, being trusted to obey the various protocols. This, even as parties, organised sport, and other entertainment events were banned.
Pastor Valin Smith, of St John's Green Acres Church of the Nazarene in St Catherine, argues that, “Churches in Jamaica are our spiritual barometer and provide hope for people who are going through situations. Jamaicans will need a place to run to for that kind of spiritual refuge. So when you reduce church, it creates a vacuum that only Christ can fill...”
The difficulty, though, is that those who organise/host sport and entertainment can also argue with justification that they are filling a 'vacuum' in the lives of many people.
In any undertaking, justice mustn't only be done, it must appear to be done, or society runs the risk of public scepticism and cynicism, leading to wilful and dangerous disobedience of rules and laws.
All that aside, we note that some funeral home directors are suggesting that the banning of burials for two weeks may lead to “chaos” or, at the very least, bring considerable stress on mortuaries.
The prime minister makes the point that, “We have to take this drastic action” because of what he describes as a “significant level of non-compliance”.
Yet, we wonder if all that could be done has been done in terms of enforcement and moral suasion.
To what extent, for instance, have political activists and elected representatives used their influence to bring across simple messages of safety first to their constituents? We know that Members of Parliament, parish councillors, et al, know of most, if not all deaths in their constituencies and divisions. To what extent do they systematically alert those at the community level to the dangers of breaching safety protocols?
These are considerations, consistent with basic community organisation, which this newspaper has long advocated, and which, we believe, our leaders should incorporate.
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