Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Editorial | Need for decisive action to tackle coronavirus

Published:Saturday | August 8, 2020 | 12:16 AM

A sharp spike in coronavirus cases was enough to call out members of the Government on Independence Day. Later, Prime Minister Andrew Holness delivered the alarming news at a press conference that there had been 30 new cases reported, driving total infections close to 1,000.

The uptick in confirmed COVID-19 cases over the last week also prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based in Atlanta, Georgia, to issue a Level 3 warning, rating coronavirus risks as high and urging persons to avoid non-essential travel to Jamaica.

How did Jamaica go from managing to control the spread of the virus, recording 10 deaths and a few hundred cases in the first few months, to the current position at the time of writing of 12 deaths and close to 1,000 cases?

Could it be that Jamaicans became too complacent? Did the opening of the borders give the illusion that the pandemic was over? Did some people believe that the hot summer months would make the virus less potent?

It is clear that what worked in Jamaica’s favour in those early days was the closure of the borders, curfews, caps on social gatherings, and stay-at-home restrictions, as well as the dedication of front-line medical workers.

SELFISH ACTIONS

Communicating the dangers associated with the coronavirus and encouraging people to adhere to the safety guidelines to avoid the spread obviously did not resonate with everyone. This includes washing hands regularly, self-isolating, obeying quarantine rules, wearing face masks in public spaces and while using public transportation, and maintaining social-distancing protocols.

Failure to comply with these rules is directly to blame for this current spike. Under pressure to open borders to bring back tourists and resuscitate the economy, the Government gradually loosened restrictions. Sadly, many of the persons who returned to the island from coronavirus hotspots failed to abide by the rules, which has been confirmed by tracing reports. Their actions are selfish and irresponsible.

Jamaica is not the only country that has experienced a spike in coronavirus cases. More than six months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it an international public health emergency, the pandemic is accelerating.

The steady march of the virus has forced governments to extend or amend precautionary measures as they try to respond to control the spread of the coronavirus. In some cases, countries opened and then closed borders, have returned to lockdowns, or have gone on an enforcement blitz to punish violators – by imposing fines, making arrests, and imprisonment.

For example, in Canada, failure to comply with regulations could result in maximum fines of CDN$1,000, and in Kenya, fines are 50,000 shillings and/or imprisonment of up to three years.

News of the spike in coronavirus infections will cast a shadow over the planned reopening of schools and resumption of face-to-face classes next month, with the potential danger to students, teachers, and parents. There are also fears that this spike is enough to overwhelm the health system as it struggles to keep up with regular illnesses in addition to finding intensive-care space for virus cases.

Jamaica cannot cope with coronavirus cases rocketing out of control. We are walking a tightrope when it comes to the coronavirus, and this newspaper supports restrictions and more stringent application of the law to deal with persons who continue to disobey the protocols and to put their lives and the lives of fellow citizens at risk. We, therefore, urge the prime minister to be done with moral suasion and act decisively to control the spread of the coronavirus.