Jamaica gets a COVID time outMonday, August 23, 2021
I remember when she was principal of the Alpha Boys' School, Sister Regine Isaacs explained that, for punishment, boys would be sent to the “thinking room” for a while — she had good results because they hated being isolated.
Well, my Jamaican people, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has mandated three-day sessions in the COVID-19 thinking room, in the hope that the country will emerge from this dangerous spike in novel coronavirus infections.
The hospitalisations and deaths continue to rise, and Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, at last Thursday's press conference, raised the spectre of 200 deaths per week if we continue along the current trajectory.
Thankfully, church leaders have now made a joint appeal to their fellow Jamaicans to get vaccinated and are also offering the use of their premises as vaccination centres.
Archbishop Kenneth Richards wrote in a circular to church members: “If the 67 per cent of our population who are Christians are vaccinated we can establish the herd immunity that is desired for normality… please see it as your moral responsibility to encourage your family and neighbours to get vaccinated… may your efforts spare our people and nation the worst.”
The prime minister noted that 99 per cent of the people hospitalised with the virus are unvaccinated.
For those worried about side effects, we urge them to speak with vaccinated individuals. They will discover that most of us may have had a slight fever and some soreness in our arm that may remind them of the bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine for tuberculosis, which not only gave them a fever, but also an ugly sore – the scars for which most of us bear to this day.
The difference between now and then is the wilful spread of anti-vaccine propaganda started by 12 miscreants recently identified by Facebook. This ugliness is also happening in some parts of the US where schools are being threatened with the withholding of funds if children are asked to wear masks.
Jamaicans should give thanks that our leaders and scientists are on the same page.
However, the vaccine resisters seem to have been influenced by the barrage of nonsense on social media. We are usually a caring and conscious people, so please use this lockdown to call your friends, listen to their fears, and talk them through the science. Explain to them that the very science they are doubting is the very science they will be hoping can cure them if they contract the virus and it progresses to COVID-19.
When she was here recently, PR guru Jane Buchanan explained how concerned she was that her good friend had not yet been vaccinated. Well, last week she contacted me to say that after multiple conversations she had finally convinced her friend. That is the kind of persistence we need to get us to a safe place.
We note that our government ministers have been sharing on social media that they and their families have all been vaccinated.
Kudos to dancehall stars Ding Dong and Mr Lexx who publicised their timely jabs and to Simone Clarke-Cooper whose moving message should inspire us all: “…I got vaccinated so that I can protect myself, to keep my daughter as safe as I can, to take care of her and watch her grow.”
PFIZER VACCINE FOR CHILDREN
We have been gifted with AstraZeneca vaccines from the UK, India, and Mexico, and last week we received a huge gift of over 200,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the USA. This vaccine has been declared safe for children over 12 years old and may be the precious key to the reopening of face-to-face classes for high school children.
These are the gateway years to higher education and career decisions.
We note that principals Mark Malbver of Yallahs High School and Calbert Thomas of Seaforth High School have already spoken out in favour of their students being vaccinated.
We hope the Jamaica Teachers' Association will lend their powerful voice not only to advocate vaccination for secondary school-aged children, but also for their own members. We are depending on our wonderful teachers to help us out of this crisis – you are powerful influencers and your support will put you on the right side of history.
JAPAN HELPS WOMEN IN CRISIS
The dedicated Joyce Hewett, executive director of Woman Inc, and representatives of the Women's Leadership Initiative saw their dream come true when they opened a transitional home for battered women in St Andrew last week. The home is kindly sponsored by the Government of Japan's Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects. Special thanks to Noriko Oshima, first secretary and director of economic affairs and cooperation at the Embassy of Japan, for her support and encouragement.
Our Haitian sisters and brothers are facing tough times.
There was social and political unrest after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and then came a powerful earthquake in the south-west – one that was felt in several neighbouring countries including Jamaica. To date more than 2,100 people have lost their lives and thousands have been left injured and homeless.
Food for the Poor, which was founded in Jamaica, has been active in Haiti over the past three decades running orphanages and clinics. They have been assisting the survivors and distributing food and other supplies. Please support via their website at www.foodforthepoor.org.
The Digicel Foundation in Haiti led by Josefa Gauthier and Sophia Stransky have also been providing assistance. Of the 179 schools built by the foundation in Haiti, 35 were built in the south-west, and thanks to their stewardship only four had minor damage. Let us be good neighbours to our Haitian family.
AFGHANISTAN IN TURMOIL
After 20 years in Afghanistan, during which time the US trained and equipped the 300,000-strong Afghan Army, built schools, and advocated for the equality of women, the US felt it was time to bring their soldiers home. However, the withdrawal of US troops provided an opportunity for the Taliban to rapidly take over city after city and, finally the capital Kabul.
The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai fled the country, as well as thousands of his army, whose weapons and equipment have been seized by the Taliban. Thousands of Afghans who worked for the US have been crowding the airport in Kabul, desperate to escape.
Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who had been shot in the head by the Taliban for defending the right of girls to educated, wrote in the New York Times: “I fear for my Afghan sisters.”
OUR ATHLETES SHINE
Up to press time Jamaica's Under-20 team had racked up 11 medals – three gold, six silver, and three bronze. Congratulations to our team.
We got a huge charge when our Jamaican women emerged once again as the top three in last Saturday's Diamond League meet in the US. Elaine Thompson-Herah did a breathtaking 10.54 seconds, even faster than her 10.61s in the Tokyo Olympics. Second was Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and third the versatile Shericka Jackson. The much-vaunted American Sha'Carri Richardson finished last and was sadly arrogant in her post-event interview.