What if the novel coronavirus pandemic lasts for another year or two?
That is the question obviously not being asked by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Dr Christopher Tufton, Ms Fayval Williams, and others like sprinter Mr Yohan Blake, whose timidity is blatantly showing.
While the Government's announcement of further restrictions to quell COVID-19 is not likely to make the news elsewhere, Mr Blake had hardly closed his mouth before his ill-considered statement — that he would rather miss the Tokyo Olympics than take the COVID-19 vaccine — reverberated around the world.
Mr Blake's Twitter rant that, “My mind still stays strong, I don't want any vaccine, I'd rather miss the Olympics than take the vaccine; I am not taking it,” was, regrettably, picked up by major world media, including Cable News Network (CNN), and flashed across the globe.
We find it rather ironic that, in one breath, Mr Blake is calling for the full return of athletics competition, but in the other he's running up his mouth against the one thing that the world now has that could ensure return to normality, on the track and elsewhere.
And we shudder to think about the extent of the damage that statement will likely have on the many Jamaicans and others who have stiffened their backs against the vaccine, or are struggling with doubt about taking it.
As for the Jamaican Government, its approach to handling the pandemic has gone from superb at the beginning to lacking in courage and resolution after a year in which it should have learnt that we must face the virus or perish.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the decision to close schools, except for students taking exams. Our future is indeed bleak when the Government concludes that schools cannot be held safely. Again, what if the pandemic lasts more than another year?
Without schools reopening, many parents are left with the dreadful choice of caring for their children and balancing a job. Reopening schools would allow many households to be able to resume a closer version to business as usual.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given guidelines, after much thought and study, that we can use to open schools safely — universal wearing of mask, physical distancing, hand washing, cleaning facilities, and upgrading ventilation.
Across the globe, health experts, school officials, and teachers are all working hard to make sure their schools are as safe as possible while open, by limiting class sizes, staggering schedules, or offering a hybrid of online and in-person learning.
Some are holding classes and activities outside as much as possible; having teachers change rooms rather than moving students; having meals in the classroom instead of the cafeteria; and marking floors to show students where to stand and walk.
Schools are a safe place for kids to learn while their parents are working, and they support children's physical, mental, social, and emotional health. Importantly, they are less likely to catch and spread the coronavirus than adults, the scientists tell us.
There is much that can be done to promote safe schools before we start retreating. This Government seems to like to verbally “commit” to things, rather than do the hard work.