And, the winner is...Sunday, March 21, 2021
THERE is a divide in what should be a unified approach to fighting COVID-19 that bodes us no good. The outright lies, fake news, and scare tactics employed by mischief-makers who mount roadblocks at every step of the way serve as spoilers for the thousands of Jamaicans who are giving their all to crush and destroy this pandemic.
It makes no sense to try to embarrass the persons who are leading the strategy to fight COVID-19. There is no me vs they in this round. This is a 'one for all, all for one' battle that demands unity, loyalty, selflessness, and dedication to the cause.
In the case of the vaccine distribution, social media has run amok with misinformation and crazy news gleefully fed to a gullible audience that thrives on anything sensational in preference to credible information.
The result has been to create doubts and fears in some quarters as a primary response to the vaccine, rather than encourage assessment based on knowledge, understanding, and a balanced approach.
Mainstream media, anxiously competing for front-page stories, have also succumbed in some instances to the spectacle, focusing on shortcomings and drawbacks which are inevitable in any roll-out of such a magnitude, significance and importance all over the world. In such instances it would seem that the old media adage, “when in doubt, leave it out”, no longer applies in the race to be the first at the post, never mind the damage done, or the message sent.
Take, for example, the news that we recorded our highest number of COVID-19-related deaths in a single day, March 9 — 13 cases. This was alarming and, understandably, was an instant drawing card item. Thirteen deaths in one day; a record for Jamaica and, for the media, legitimate cause for a major broadcast item of news.
Here is the rub. There was a serious error in the tallying. Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton immediately sent out a correction pointing out that the number of deaths as reported actually took place over a number of days, not in one single day. Notwithstanding this letter which was read over the air, some newscasts continued to carry the 13 deaths story throughout the evening. So with the accurate information overlooked, the public goes into another week with the panic button on hold, and waiting to exhale as we cross over the threshold of 13 deaths.
Here is the lesson to be learnt: Generally speaking, our media has been carrying out its role of investigative journalism faithfully and professionally in this matter of the vaccine intervention. Thanks to the media, both the Government and the public have been kept up-to-date and on their toes as the vaccine is introduced and rolled out across Jamaica.
We have to hold our breaths and say our prayers as this is not just a first for Jamaica, it is a life-saving intervention of immense implications seen as the only way to vanquish this killer virus. We are in a fight for our lives.
In all of this the media has a huge role to play and is, in a sense, first respondent for the public. The traditional news media must tread high ground and remain steadfast as our best resort for truth and accuracy and sound judgement.
Social media, take heed! We have no time to 'ramp' or to play silly games. As was said in this newspaper's editorial of Thursday, March 18, “For the sake of Jamaica's recovery, the media must remain an oasis in a desert of misinformation...A nation divided against itself cannot win this battle.”
Divisiveness will not help our chances to recover if we remain disunited and polarised.
The heavyweight fight
The other night I had a dream in which I saw two bruisers engaged in a title fight for the Super Heavyweight Championship of the World.
The fight is staged in Jamaica with serious implications for the future of the planet. The contenders are Killer Covid, the defending champion, and JamaicaCan, the challenger.
There are no crowds at the bout, as the restrictions limit the arena to 20 people. But the world is watching on television and there are thousands, nay, millions, who are in JamCan's corner hoping and cheering and praying and betting that this fight will mark the turning point in the struggle to overcome the pandemic. The prize, after all, is life.
The Killer, as he is called, has been mowing down fighters and challengers across the world, and gained the title in a remorseless march across boxing rings in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, and now the Caribbean. He was kept out of China by immigration requirements.
JamCan, as he is called, is a fit fighter and athlete, who showed the world how to beat down COVID-19 in 2020, but has come up short in 2021, having lost several fights this year to several of the Killer's sparring partners.
He climbs into the ring this evening and it is immediately noticed that he is not his usual self. He appears nervous, baggy shorts soaked, puffed cheeks, breathing heavily, and exhibiting symptoms of a high fever and a fresh cold.
In his own corner stands the Killer, taller by 6 inches, and with evil eyes that stare down his opponent who trembles at what he sees across the ring — ghostly apparitions that hover around the champion.
The challenger's corner gets a boost with the arrival of an e-mail advising of millions of people all over the world who are standing with him. His manager, the redoubtable “Tuffy”, reminds him of the strategy to watch his left and land some stinging jabs all over the body in the first few rounds. It's a tall order, as other members of the team are also advising him to keep social distance in the ring.
The bell is sounded, signalling the first round, and the Killer has it easy in the opening seconds, delivering some sharp blows to the chin while bobbing and weaving around his opponent like an eagle circling its prey.
By round three Jamaica's handlers are showing signs of worry as they continue to urge JamCan to throw the jab and keep his distance. JamCan is now confused by what we learn later are mixed messages coming out of his corner, with some advising against the jab. This double messaging is working in Killer's favour.
By round three he is ahead on points, turning the tables with his own mocking version of the jab, plus a combination of clinical punches designed to weary the Jamaican.
Come the next round JamCan shocks his manager when he leans against the rope in Mohammed Ali style, taking punches to the body and throwing none in return. Tuffy shouts, “Get off the ropes, get off the ropes,” but the Jamaican is not showing signs of tiring, instead he is allowing Killer to tire out himself as he ducks punches in his famous sweet and low style.
Round 11 and calamity. A left and right combination from Killer found JamCan napping. He is on the canvas, flat on his back. The apparitions are on their feet, they smell blood and are clamouring for the kill. The Jamaican camp is silent. The watching world feels doom. Silent prayers are said around the globe. JamCan struggles to his feet.
The referee sends him to his corner. The doctor examines and finds JamCan bloody and swollen, short of breath, with a high temperature, body pains, and trembling knees. Killer Covid has given him a blow and the question is not whether he can last the next round, but whether he will survive.
There is a huddled conference in the Jamaica corner. His doctor signals for a basin and removes JamCan's gloves to wash his hands. The group disperses to distances six feet apart. And the doctor ties a mask around the boxer's nose and chin.
Drama now at ringside. The Killer's manager is objecting to the mask. Killer himself is refusing to answer the bell. Nowhere in the history of boxing has a mask ever been allowed in the ring. The referee signals carry on. The bell rings for the final round. Killer comes out looking dazed and unsure of himself in the face of the mask.
JamCan is showing signs of new life as he dances around his opponent. This time the jabs landing on left arm and right arm and slowing the Killer.
JamCan advances, Killer shows a flurry of defiance, but he has been undone by the mask, the washing of hands, and the social distancing on the other side.
JamCan moves in with a left, and a right, a clean uppercut to the jaw, Killer is down for the count, and JamCan has scored the greatest comeback victory in the history of boxing. The crowd goes wild!
Killer is carried out on stretcher, his apparitions disappear into thin air, and the arena, and the world, is clean once more.
The ring caller announces in a voice that carries around the world: “The winner, and new Super Heavyweight Champion, Jamaica Can!”
The world erupts in joy.
The media moves in. The headlines flash around the globe. The story of the fight is carried with accuracy. Only one newspaper (guess which one) leads with a question, “Did Jamaica break the rules?”
That one is totally ignored. The world is free; thanks to the courage of JamCan and his manager. They, in turn, give thanks to God.
Lance Neita is a writer, public relations specialist, and author of the book In Partnership with Jamaica — The story of Kaiser Aluminum’s 50-year partnership with Jamaica. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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