Big move, PM! Now it's up to the rest of us to reopen Ja safelyThursday, June 24, 2021
We in this space have spent copious amounts of column inches stressing the need to reopen Jamaica safely, as keeping ourselves under lockdown could not work indefinitely when so many of our people were in really severe financial woes.
In this regard, we wholeheartedly welcome Tuesday's announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his health team, led by Dr Christopher Tufton, of the further relaxing of restrictions – the biggest move since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic last year.
The desperate cries of the entertainment fraternity might have helped to open the eyes of many who kept urging more restrictions, possibly because they themselves had not been hurting as much.
It is also worth noting that the superlative success of the tourist industry in gradually reopening safely — with its Resilient Corridor achieving an unbelievable 0.6 per cent positivity rate of infection — would have emboldened the Government to test the readiness of the country to reopen.
But, make no bounds about it, the official figures demonstrate the dire situation in which Jamaica has been plunged by the pandemic-induced lockdown. In 2018 and 2019, before COVID-19, the World Bank's graph depicted Jamaica's poverty rate at around 19 per cent. That increased to about 23 per cent in 2020. Blame that on the thousands of jobs lost.
The rate of unemployed persons dropped from around 12 per cent in July 2020 to 10.7 per cent in October 2020. The Statistical Institute of Jamaica said that as of January 2021, the percentage of persons unemployed was 8.9 per cent.
The Jamaican Government was forced to make steep adjustments to the budget to keep the economy afloat and avoid further devastation. Even a cursory understanding of the numbers would illustrate the dreadful situation.
Indeed, the United Nations said Jamaica was one of, if not the worst-hit countries by the pandemic. Any further delay in reopening would have meant even greater danger.
Which brings us to the warning given by the prime minister in his address to Parliament that throwing caution to the wind could cause a spike in infections this summer; thereby sacrificing plans for the reopening of face-to-face learning for all schools come September.
“I want to urge caution; this is not a time for complacency. As we move to the next phase of the management of the virus we will have to be even more vigilant. Our positivity rate is still higher than five per cent, only a small percentage of our population has been fully vaccinated and there are many new variants of concern in other countries that are even more transmissible than the ones we have seen locally,” Mr Holness emphasised.
The message is clear: It is up to the rest of us Jamaicans to ensure the safe reopening by observing the protocols. Of course, we have some people who could not care less what happens to the country, but we cannot allow them to prevail. Every citizen and the police must be on the lookout for them.
Naturally, the long-term answer is more vaccinations and, in that light, we thank our friend Mexico for the promised 35,000 AstraZeneca doses which can't come too soon.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login