Many more do not have to die
An appeal to all JamaicansWednesday, April 28, 2021
One Jamaica Observer headline screamed, 'Niece wants answers after aunt dies at Spanish Town Hospital'. Then I saw another elsewhere yelling, 'Crash victim dies before getting critical surgery'. Further afield, another headline: 'No respite in India as country sets COVID-19 infection record for third straight day'. What does this have to do with me, the ordinary Jamaican? Everything!
The dangerous novel coronavirus pandemic has seen many of Jamaica's hospitals reaching breaking point and hospital personnel juggling beds and floor space just to accommodate more patients. This means that, if you break your leg, or experience some kind of “regular” medical emergency, chances are you are going to wait an unusually long time to receive a bed.
My condolence to the family of the crash victim and to the niece, and to so many others who have fallen victim to this situation. But, let us explore this contextually.
Culturally, Jamaicans are highly social creatures; we love to 'go out', we love 'set-ups' (wakes), parties, etc. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, the chief medical officer (CMO) of Jamaica, reportedly lamented the state of affairs a few weeks ago, which led to this Jamaica Observer headline on March 24, 2021: 'You're killing granny and grandpa — Stubborn youngsters spreading COVID-19 to parents, uncles, aunts, and elderly'. The fearless CMO warned that it is amongst the 20 to 29 and 30 to 39 age groups we are seeing the most COVID-19-positive cases, meaning that there is still a significant degree of exposure and infections within those groups. So, whereas Kisa is young and healthy and may not exhibit any symptoms of the virus, she is possibly spreading it to poor grandma, grandpa, and to many others around her.
Folks, COVID-19 nuh done! It is still a potent foe! We cannot lower our guard now.
Let us examine India's dilemma. With a measly 11,000 new cases per day in February 2021 — with a population of 1.4 billion — India started relaxing its anti-COVID-19 efforts too soon. Citizens started returning to a “normal” lifestyle, provinces began easing restrictions, and there was a general air of invincibility over having conquered the virus. This backfired big time!
Today, that country is registering almost 3,000 deaths and 350,000 new cases daily. Other countries, like Italy, Spain, and Britain, also seemingly dropped their guards too soon and are now suffering the consequences. Could Jamaica suffer the same fate as these nations? Sure!
Just glance at our behaviour in recent months. There have been numerous illegal parties, large gatherings, curfew breaches, some have even moved their illicit events offshore in order to evade the authorities. What's more, there have been cries for the Government to 'free up' the restrictions so that people can “eat a food again”. But, sorry, folks, such freeing up is largely up to us, not the Government.
India, through its Serum Institute, produces approximately 60per cent of the world's vaccines, and Jamaica recently benefited from a gift of 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from them. But, alas, that country has been forced to scale back vaccine exports as it is facing huge problems at home. This scale-back is beginning to be felt worldwide, particularly in poorer countries like Jamaica.
Here is more worrisome news: There has been speculation that the US is hoarding its prized Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and is not allowing exports outside of the country. Its Defense Production Act compels US companies to prioritise that country in vaccine manufacturing and distribution. This leaves Jamaica with very few options for vaccine acquisition. It is imperative that Jamaica returns to some form of normality as quickly as possible, but in the absence of meeting our vaccine quotas, we must do everything else in our power to slow the rise in the number of cases of the novel coronavirus. Sadly, our current actions signal otherwise.
Is our economy
The Government is projecting for the current fiscal year an income of only US$4.7 million from tourism — our main foreign exchange earner. This is a significant decline from the US$22.5 million projected for the last financial year (a shortfall of approximately US$18 million or some $2.7 billion). We may be able to handle the effects of this shortfall for one year, but what if our COVID-19 numbers do not improve meaningfully and the tourism slump continues? Can we survive that shock?
So here is the double whammy: We are losing a large chunk of our tourism earnings while spending billions on COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
The US State Department recently issued a travel advisory to its citizens against visiting Jamaica due to our high COVID-19 numbers – another blow to tourism. Our dollar is under tremendous pressure, and, yes, you can thank COVID-19. Picture the potential fallout in the economy.
Jamaica, these are the stark realities facing us, and it's all in our own hands, not those of the health, finance, or security ministers, but in my hands, your hands!
Every time that I choose to breach a COVID-19 protocol I place myself, my loved ones, and my neighbours, my whole country at risk. Is it okay that some 200 of our citizens are testing positive daily, and many are dying? We cannot continue losing lives and livelihoods folks. We must tame this beast now!
How many more aunts will have to die waiting to be assigned a hospital bed? How many more trauma victims will suffer? How many more nurses and doctors will have to die working on the front lines? How many more Jamaicans will have to die? How much is enough?
My fellow Jamaicans, I am begging you, please, help our country. Mask up, sanitise, social distance, observe the law, and help save a life. The life you save may be your very own.
Many more do not have to die. You do not have to die. May God help us.
Edward A Morris is an instructor in the Department of Business Administration at Northern Caribbean University. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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