More drastic measures required from Gov't in COVID fightMonday, August 30, 2021
The UK has now added Jamaica to its “red” list due to rising cases of COVID-19 and very high positivity rate. This means greater restrictions for travel and hefty fines if rules are broken.
TUI, one of the UKs leading tour operators, has cancelled flights to the island beginning September. The rising surge in case numbers, hospitalisations, and deaths is now alarming. The tourism minister seems to be doing one thing — boasting about visitor arrivals, while the health minister is overwhelmed with a public health crisis.
Government cannot do this alone, but they must take much of the blame. We are a year and a half into the pandemic and don't have to look far to take lessons from other countries. There has been a lack of vision and strategy by Government; they know most Jamaicans do not follow rules, and this should've factored into all decisions. We must also be more vigilant in enforcing rules and protocols when lives are at risk.
I heard from a hotel worker that case numbers are also rising among visitors at hotels, causing concern among staff. Sections blocked off for guests who test positive and must quarantine are overflowing. From what I understand, Jamaica has been accepting COVID-19 tests done at home using kits which are then sent to labs. This is a grave mistake as many are not swabbing properly at home when they test themselves, which results in many false negatives. This is a major risk considering the highly contagious Delta variant is rampant.
Rapid and home testing are prohibited in many countries and results — digital or printed — must have a QR code which can be scanned and verified. It appears that many visitors and locals alike are entering the island as negative then develop symptoms shortly after. The recent death of a pregnant tourist is an example of what can happen when protocols are not rigid enough.
As we continue to ramp up vaccinations, some have said that we should not criticise anti-vaxxers; I disagree. If they can protest in the streets and spread anti-vaccination rhetoric they should not be above criticism, considering no one is being forced to vaccinate.
Most reasons given to resist vaccination makes no sense. Many believe they will be injected with micro chips to be monitored. Do they know how ridiculous this sounds? With so many countries in the world — different cultures and languages — do they really think that national health boards could've colluded to strategise to control the billions of people in the world?
It is also false to suggest that vaccines were not properly tested and vetted for health, safety, and efficacy. The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the main vaccines being used globally. All medicines will have some risks, it is the benefit versus risk that we must assess.
I've known a couple anti-vaxxers who eventually changed their minds and took the vaccine. The best strategy is to share information in a civil and practical manner without arguing.
Organisations and entertainment venues should consider implementing vaccination policies for entry. If people want to resume social interaction during a pandemic, proof of vaccination should be required to protect each other. This will not force anyone to vaccinate against their will, but it will, at least, make them think.
Like other countries, Jamaica should mandate vaccination for all travellers, with few medical exemptions. A negative test by itself is no longer good enough. We are at a precipitous point where hospitals are overcrowded and only accepting emergency cases. Oxygen supply is dangerously low, elective surgeries have to be postponed.
We have a responsibility to each other in times of crises. If vaccines can help to reduce the risks to ourselves, and others, I urge people to think and make the best decisions.