Sat | Sep 19, 2020

Michael Abrahams | A time to reach out, show kindness

Published:Monday | September 14, 2020 | 12:08 AM
Michael Abrahams
Michael Abrahams
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When COVID-19 landed on the shores of Jamaica earlier this year, I remember thinking that by the end of summer it would all be over, and we would be back to our regular lives. That we would be able to attend live music and sporting events, that children would be back in physical schools, that tourism would be booming again. I was wrong.

Rather than giving us a break, the damn thing has intensified. We are now in the community spread phase. Initially, a handful of cases would be reported each day and we would be told who the persons had been in contact with and contracted the virus from, and deaths were few and far between. Today, dozens of cases are reported daily, and it is not uncommon for over 100 to be reported in a 24-hour period. And the pay cuts and job losses continue. Households are experiencing food shortages and distance/online learning has been a challenge and a source of stress for children and their parents and caregivers. We do not know how long this will last, and this uncertainty is causing great unease and is literally driving some of us crazy. Many of our brothers and sisters are being pushed over the edge.

The pandemic has significantly increased our stress levels. It has affected us mentally, emotionally, socially, financially and physically. Now, more than ever, we have an excellent opportunity to show the good side of what we are made of. This is our chance to show kindness and empathy to our brothers and sisters, and to be unselfish.

NO ONE IS EXEMPT

No one is exempt from COVID-19 and its consequences. We know that the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are at greatest risk for suffering from the severe physical effects of being infected by the novel coronavirus. But people of any age can be affected and die. There are nonagenarians who have contracted the virus and fully recovered, and teenagers who have succumbed. There are people on minimum wage who are still holding on to their jobs, and there are previously wealthy high rollers who are now in dire financial straits.

But we can all play a role in mitigating the effects of the pandemic on our society. First, we need to respect and adhere to the recommended protocols. In other words, we need to wear masks, wash our hands regularly, or sanitise, and practise social distancing as best we can. Regarding the masks, yes, I know wearing them can be a pain in the you know where.

But please, me beg oonu, please, please, please wear oonu mask dem. Study after study after study has shown that if everyone wears masks properly, infection rates will be kept down. Masks are not perfect barriers, but they help. And congregating in crowds, for prolonged periods, especially indoors, spells disaster. We know better. We just need to do better.

REACH OUT

And we need to respect science. It is absolutely ludicrous to go on the Internet, read a few articles, and think you know more than scientists in the fields of virology, immunology and epidemiology, who have conducted studies involving thousands of subjects, and have had their research published in respected peer-reviewed journals. A little humility goes a long way.

So, be kind. Reach out to those you know are struggling. If you can afford to, offer to assist persons who are dire financial straits, like the single mother who got laid off and cannot afford to buy schoolbooks for her children, or the hypertensive and diabetic man down the street who had a pay cut at work and can barely afford to buy his medication. If there are elderly people in your community who have been advised to stay indoors for their own safety, offer to run errands for them. If you are an employer, try to exercise greater flexibility with your employees. If you are a landlord, and you can afford it, try to give your tenants a bit of latitude.

Reach out – show empathy, be responsible, be kind.

Michael Abrahams is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, social commentator and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.