Who is advising the prime minister?Tuesday, March 23, 2021
I heard aspects of the prime minister's speech during newscasts Sunday evening on how the Government aims to tackle the spread of the novel coronavirus in Jamaica. Despite the serious nature of the speech I laughed so loudly that family members and neighbours came running to ask what was happening.
Who is advising the prime minister? Are his advisers trying to make him look silly? Some of the strategies mentioned are impractical. The new curfew for Saturdays is 12 noon, while on Sundays there is a stay-at-home mandate, and these are borderline ridiculous. Is there something special about Sundays?
The Government of Jamaica needs to explain the logic of this decision. Without proper explanation this smacks of favouritism for some and discrimination of others. The Government may mean well, but the announced plans do not seem to be properly thought-out.
The shortened hours on Friday and Saturdays will destroy small and medium-sized businesses. The entrepreneurial spirit will be crushed, deepening poverty and mental illness throughout the country. The lack of business hours over the weekend is going to lead to a new round of lay-offs and redundancies across the private sector. There is seemingly no analysis whenever there is a change in strategy; for example, the curfew start being moved from 10:00 pm to 8:00 pm seemingly had the opposite impact to that desired. Most people had to be leaving work at the same time; hence, public transportation became crowded. The corner shops are overflowing between 7:30 pm and 8:00 pm. There is a disconnect between the policymakers and the people on the ground. This disconnect is causing deep resentment amongst the populace.
It would be good to see the scientific data the Government is using to guide its strategies. Which reports are they using? Some experts see no difference between areas with draconian lockdowns and those who give more freedom to their citizens. Florida kept schools, churches and businesses opened throughout the pandemic, while California adopted more stringent measures; yet both states have similar COVID-19 deaths and hospitalisations ('Florida sees same COVID case rate as California, despite no statewide restrictions', Newsweek, March 16, 2021). Florida made efforts to protect its at-risk citizens instead of seeking to quarantine and lock down the entire population. This is a model Jamaica can examine and implement.
There was also a very puzzling development in the guidelines: “Applications are to be submitted to the divisional commanders of each parish through the police station closest to the place of worship with the list of no more than 12 persons who will be involved in the services during the periods of lockdown to facilitate streaming of services.” What does this mean? Do the police have the right to turn down these applications? Instead of the police trying to solve the ever-increasing crime in Jamaica they will now be busy reviewing church lists. Will something similar be done at the bars? Will the bartenders be asked to record the names of those who are patronising them?
The Government would be better served if it aims to review states and countries that found effective ways to combat the spread of the virus, rather than putting forward measures which seem illogical.
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