The challenges of this common enemyMonday, March 30, 2020
Up to press time for this column, we had 32 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the island, and, mercifully, still one death. Our calm, knowledgeable Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie continues to share detailed information on the various cases and their locations and we cannot thank our health workers enough for the dedication they are showing in these challenging times.
While our numbers continue to be relatively low, we could hear the deep concern in Prime Minister Andrew Holness' voice when he stated at last Friday's press briefing, “The biggest threat to our numbers spiking would be from persons who returned to Jamaica within the last 18 days, those who have not kept themselves in quarantine and are symptomatic and are spreading the disease.
“I use this now, not as a threat, but as advice.” said Holness. “Those who have come into the island between the 18th of March and the 23rd, the police and the Ministry of Health have been instructed to go through the manifests and match names and addresses to determine if you are self-quarantining. If you are not, the ministry officials and the law enforcement will take the necessary steps; if not in compliance when checked a second time, steps will be taken for you to be quarantined in State facilities and you will be charged.”
How can people be so selfish and careless? Now, our already overworked police officers must add this to their state of emergency and area quarantine duties.
We are relieved to know that our street people are not being overlooked during this crisis, as Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie announced at last Friday's press briefing that they would be receiving daily meals as of yesterday. However, I am concerned about the over 50,000 household workers. President of the Jamaica Household Workers Union (JHWU) called to say that they are losing their jobs and their families are suffering. Minister McKenzie had noted that the Poor Relief division of his ministry can consider cases not covered by the finance minister's emergency package, so I am hoping that the members of the JHWU will get some urgent assistance.
It is encouraging that after a news report about farmers having to dump some of their crops that the Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA) has published contact information for their parish officers who should be able to assist with the distribution of produce. Nutritionist Frances Mahfood advised on the news last week that the best way to strengthen our immune system is to add more fruit and vegetables to our diet. We hope the precious produce can be purchased for infirmaries and children's homes and that manufacturers of food products and supermarkets will give them some well-needed business.
The order for individuals over the age of 75 to stay at home for two weeks from last Wednesday, March 25, should be taken very seriously. Although this allows them to do essential shopping, I hope that family members, friends, and neighbours will offer to do such chores. Our seniors are a high-risk group, as witnessed by the numbers coming out of Europe. We feel it to our hearts for the bereaved of those countries, with Italy and Spain being the hardest hit.
We have to be like the young woman who related on social media that she barred a would-be visitor from entering her house as she knew he had recently “come from farrin” and she did not want him to go near her “prize prize modda inside.”
“Hello!” she said she shouted, “A nuh joke mi a mek!”
Kudos for Jamaica
Last week the Miami Herald reported that we were part of “a small hemispheric club that includes Jamaica, El Salvador, Peru and a handful of others [which] responded to the crisis with forceful measures that seemed excessive just days ago, but now seem prescient… Jamaica was one of the first countries in the Caribbean to react to the coronavirus, after seeing its first case on March 10. The country barred flights from hot zones, restricted the movement of tourists, enforced quarantines for all new arrivals, and cancelled school, among other measures. It also put part of an entire town, Bull Bay, on lockdown”.
Health Minister Christopher Tufton is quoted: “Early in the day we decided it was better to take fairly strong measures — starting with public education, and then graduating into other restrictions in order to at least contain it, even while we prepare our public health system to deal with the inevitable.”
There was also reference to a social media post by World Health Organization Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “Thank you so much for your leadership — and preparedness — for #COVID19, @christufton. #Jamaica Being ready for #coronavirus is key to pushing it back fast. Together, for a safer world!”
Farewell, legendary Bob Andy
The tributes are many and heartfelt for Jamaica's supreme lyricist Bob Andy. Thank goodness he heard many before he passed. Over 20 top artistes gathered in Kingston in 2011 to honour the great man. They included Marcia Griffiths, who had teamed with him as “Bob and Marcia” to cover Nina Simone's Young, Gifted and Black, a rendition which rose to number five in the UK and sold half a million copies. Nadine Sutherland, Big Youth, Freddie McGregor, Luciano, Denyque, Chevaughn, Protoje, Desi Jones & Friends, Lloyd Parkes and We the People all sang and played their hearts out for the legend.
As I write this, Roy Black is playing the Bob Andy classic I've Got to Go Back Home on KLAS-FM; it lit up the dance floors of our youth. How we would sing out the trumpet bars when the DJ stopped the music. Now he is playing one of Bob Andy's strong social commentaries, Fire Burning:
“I was drawn into myself
Observing all this time
From every angle I could see
My people, you're meeting hell
Brothers have turned to crime
So they die from time to time
We'd like to ask you leaders
What have you got in mind
I see the fire spreading
It's getting hotter and hot
The haves will want to be
In the shoes of the have-nots
If the sign is on your door
Then you will be saved for sure
But if you are in pretence
You're on the wrong side of the fence.”
My husband Hubie recalls that the company he worked for in the 70s, Total Sounds, produced Bob Andy's radical Check it out:
“Open your eyes
It's time you realise
That the rise in the price
Is to make more money
For who's got plenty
And the trick of the trade
Is to keep all the hungry bellies empty.”
On the Bob Andy website we learn that, “In November 1987, Bob assumed the post of A&R and promotions director for Tuff Gong (the group of companies founded by Bob Marley)... Bob's stay at Tuff Gong provided him with many opportunities to express his life-long desire for higher standards in Jamaican music, both in its business operations and in the quality of its musical output.”
A great legacy in so many spheres of Jamaican music. Rest in peace, Bob Andy.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login