'Pregnant' phase for JamaicaMonday, April 06, 2020
At last Friday's digital press briefing hosted by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie noted that we should not get complacent with our comparatively low COVID-19 figures. She described this phase as “pregnant” — who knows what the coming weeks will bring?
This uncertainty is heightened by the fact that over 4,000 Jamaicans who returned to the island after March 18 have not reported to the Ministry of Health. Listen people, Jamaica is a small place, and these individuals are known by family members, friends, and neighbours. Please convince them to self-quarantine and visit the Ministry of Health's website (https://jamcovid19.moh.gov.jm) to provide urgently needed information. If they do not do so immediately, Jamaica Observer Managing Editor Charmaine N Clarke noted in an article the prime minister's warning: They “will be charged when found …They will be slapped with a fine upwards of $1 million and placed in State quarantine if needed.”
One of the charts shared showed Jamaica's positive status vs other countries in the region, but that status can change dramatically if these 4,000 individuals are not located. They can be in our markets, where social distancing is not being observed, they can be walking close to you when you venture out to do essential shopping. They could have just exited the ATM that you are entering. While the security forces try to find these irresponsible individuals, you cannot be too careful with your hygiene regimen.
There is still much discussion around whether one should wear a mask outside. Yes, we need to know that cloth masks have to be washed after three hours of use, and that they should be removed from behind the ears to avoid infection, but this should not deter us from wearing them. Countries who have mandatory wearing of masks have seen positive results.
Dr Walter Popp, vice-president of the German Society for Hospital Hygiene, has stated on Euronews Television that home-made masks can be used: “We say a mask is always better than no mask.” Wearing of masks is now mandatory in Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Cuba, following the lead of China and South Korea.
The authorities keep repeating guidelines with good reason — the virus is highly contagious and will enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth. Never forget: Wash hands as frequently as possible; use hand sanitisers, remain at home; do not touch your face; cough or sneeze into a tissue and discard immediately. Additionally, if you must go out, leave your shoes at the door when you return, change your clothes and take a shower or sanitise thoroughly.
One UK man reported that he made one quick trip to Tesco and brought home the virus, sending his one-year-old son into the intensive care unit at hospital. Thank goodness the child and the rest of the family are recovering well.
During a Health Ministry press briefing last week there was a telephone link with one of the Jamaicans who had recovered from the virus. He was one of the lucky ones, having had mild symptoms, but he reported that he heard some of his fellow patients crying out.
CNN Host Chris Cuomo, who has caught the virus, told viewers, “You suffer.” He described headache and sinus pressure that blurred his vision and nightly fever that brings on hallucinations. Most frightening was an interview on the UK's Channel 4 News with Dr David Hepburn, consultant in intensive care medicine. He described how the virus causes a build-up of fluid in the lungs of the patient that makes them feel that they are drowning. He said while ventilators may save some patients, others may be too far gone to be helped.
Our most vulnerable
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie reported at the briefing that, in assisting our 'outdoor poor' and monitoring them during the recently imposed night curfew, the ministry's personnel discovered an even larger number of homeless people than they had on record. The workers have been travelling throughout the island taking these people to shelters so they can have a meal, bathe, and get a change of clothes. He said more shelters are being built to protect these, our most vulnerable.
As we turn to family and friends for moral support it must be a nightmare for these homeless people who have no one to call and so we salute our workers who are trying to protect them.
Our churches do much good work for the homeless but, with no church services and no offerings, their outreach activities are hampered. Please try to send your offerings to your churches; they need to keep going.
Finance Ministry reaches out to household workers
It was with great relief that we learned from Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke that his ministry was in touch with the Jamaica Household Workers Union (JHWU) to offer help. Jamaica has over 50,000 household workers, many of whom do day's work and have no job security.
JHWU Vice-President Nicola Lawson appealed in a recent video: “Domestic workers are feeling the pinch – many of us have been sent home without pay… Please help us to take care of those who take care of you.”
Donations to the JHWU can be sent to the organisation's account at Scotiabank, account no: 100129079, Half-Way-Tree Branch, or online to www.mightycause.com/story/Jhwu-Help-Fund. You can also send donations in funds or in kind to the JHWU office at 4 Ellesmere Road in Half-Way-Tree.
Overseas help coming in
Quarantine for the 140 Cuban health workers who arrived two weeks ago has ended and so they will be posted at various hospitals throughout the island.Welcome and stay well, good neighbours!
Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith heads a committee which has circulated Jamaica's priority needs to our external partners. At the briefing she shared that the European Union has funded 29 ventilators, South Korea and East-West Power Company have donated 7,500 test kits, which should arrive later this month. The People's Republic of China has sent a sizeable donation of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for health personnel. Chinese philanthropist Jack Ma's Alibaba Foundation has also sent PPEs and test kits for 3,000 people. We have received US$70,000 from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and other donations from the Hubei People's Association, the United Nations, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). We hope to have a total of 105 ventilators by May.
Strong for Jamaica
These partnerships are the result of having strong and credible organisations which can respond nimbly to queries, ensuring that the requisite correspondence is professionally handled.
Educated and dedicated personnel are key to our navigation of this national crisis. How will we get stronger for Jamaica?
Let's use our downtime to upskill by registering at the HEART/National Service Training Agency website and using the various free apps offered online. Check this helpful link from Kemal Brown at Digita Global on 'Making Virtual Work, Work' to learn more: https://bit.ly/DigitaGuide.