Fri | Mar 5, 2021

Letter of the Day | Time for Ja and the US to focus on way ahead

Published:Saturday | January 9, 2021 | 12:05 AM


Two events over the past few days are strangely connected yet contradictory: the passing of Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, and President Donald J. Trump attempting to stage a coup and inciting his hooligan followers to storm the US Capitol to disrupt the constitutionally mandated process to count the electoral votes and affirm Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

Butch Stewart led a life that gave people things and experiences that made their lives better: air conditioners, automobiles and pleasurable vacations. Butch was about vision, possibilities and flawless execution. Conversely, Donald Trump’s only vision was about himself and his personal enrichment. Trump had no plan to help the average American live a better life, avoid getting COVID-19, or manage through a difficult economic times as a result of the pandemic.

It is time to move forward with president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in less than two weeks, and get focused on a six-month plan that will benefit both Jamaica and the US. Here is what that means:

• The priority in both countries is to get COVID under control and have an aggressive vaccine roll-out. And not just a plan. To quote Nike’s tag line – Just Do It.

• The Jamaican economy will not be restored until tourism returns in a meaningful way. And just like passports, health records, before people travel, have to be standardised, credible and enforced. Competing technologies to upload health data to a phone or the airline reservation have to be standardised and universally in place.

• What happens if an American tourist tests positive for COVID-19 while in Jamaica? Do you really want to get care at Cornwall Regional, where 80-90 per cent of the ICU beds are already filled? If you get sick, you cannot get on an airline to return to the States for medical care.

• The answer to the aforementioned situation is for the Jamaica’s ministry of tourism and the tourism industry to contract a state-of-the-art medical ship to be dispatched to Jamaica, and remain in Freeport for the next seven months. US tourists can get top-tier medical attention if needed.

• Once all of the above is in place, the Jamaican ministries of health and tourism need to step up their dialogue with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the US State Department and the travel media, on the steps being taken to protect American tourists. After all, 65 per cent of Jamaica’s tourism economy comes from the US.

Butch Stewart will always be remembered for his ability to ‘think outside the box’. He thought in terms of possibilities, and had a bias for action and results. The greatest legacy for Butch, and his love for Jamaica, would be for all parties, in the US and Jamaica, to work together and help everyone get to the sunnier side of the street. Good luck and stay safe.