Sat | Apr 4, 2020

JaRistotle's Jottings |The long haul ahead

Published:Thursday | March 26, 2020 | 12:15 AM

COVID-19 IS upon us, globally and here on the Rock. Worldwide, indications suggest that with the current rate of spread, the likely infection levels will be staggering, as too will be the effects on the global economy. Against such ominous projections, notwithstanding the efforts of our Government to date, we had better prepare ourselves for the long haul ahead.

In my opinion, the Government has been doing the right thing so far. With only 21 reported cases as at Tuesday, the vast majority of which were imported, local containment and mitigation efforts have served us well.

However, given that local transmissions are likely to increase, a transition to more stringent measures should be on the agenda, ever bearing in mind that countries that have pussyfooted with the issue have had to get tough overnight. We should learn from their mistakes: graduated responses are more tolerable and enforceable.

DOMESTIC SECURITY

What are we talking about here, this long haul? As time progresses, we should expect that more people will become infected, albeit that the levels and time spread are entirely dependent on our adherence to prescribed measures. Coincidental to increased infections will be an increasingly challenging domestic environment, where issues of business closures, job losses, availability of medical care, medical supplies, medicines, food and water will extend beyond the infection factor. These issues are intrinsic to basic survival, and we are likely to see increases in criminal activity as the quality of life deteriorates.

Does the Government want to delay preparation for such an eventuality? I would think not, and therefore suggest that they begin that transition from now. If the eventual situation does not merit the continuation of the heightened measures, it is easier to downscale. The converse is vastly different.

BORDER SECURITY

While our official airports and seaports are being effectively controlled, I have to wonder about our largely un-secured coastline, what with thousands of fishermen still plying their trade, some returning with only legitimate catches whilst others venture to foreign lands, only to return with deadly catches, whether corona, Kalashnikov or Glock. Attention in that arena is critical. Of course, unregulated aircraft traffic is just as concerning.

COMMONSENSICAL SECURITY

In times such as these, the state agencies must lead, if not be the sole provider of certain public services. Transport is no exception, and it is full time to pull all taxis off the road. Even if we ignore their indiscipline and propensity for accidents, common sense would suggest that commuters who observe social distancing at their workplace and then get into a taxi are defeating the distancing precautions and putting themselves at risk.

It is not just the driver and immediate passengers who we need to consider as risk factors, but also those who were previously in the vehicle. What assurances do we have of taxi operators practising sanitisation precautions? The JUTC option: sanitised buses, no overcrowding, operating to schedule, and cashless.

Similar commonsensical concerns apply to non-essential barbering, hairdressing and beauty establishments, spas and tattoo parlours.

VOCAL ABOUT LOCAL

When adversity strikes, people invariably become more innovative: Cuba is a prime example, having had to cope with the US-imposed embargo for decades. National self-reliance should, therefore, be at the forefront of not only our efforts to weather this crisis, but to go beyond.

Use this situation to curb our appetite for foreign foods and goods, reduce energy consumption, and exercise water discipline. Grow what we eat; eat what we grow. Buy Jamaican. Put the money back into the local economy.

Let’s act responsibly, never forgetting that the COVID-19 crisis may well be exacerbated by other crises, such as drought and hurricanes. A government transition is critical, but we, too, must make the transition if we are to conquer the long haul.

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