Sun | May 31, 2020

Be a hero: Stay home, save lives

Published:Tuesday | April 7, 2020 | 12:13 AMDr Christopher Tufton, MP/ - Minister of Health and Wellness
Dr Christopher Tufton
Dr Christopher Tufton

Emerging from China, this new member of the family of coronaviruses, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), has been wreaking havoc in over 100 countries, with nearly half a million confirmed cases and more than 20,000 deaths. Countries with varying levels of economic power and advanced healthcare systems are all having an extremely difficult time controlling the spread and impact of this disease.

The consensus, though, is that the level of success any country will achieve in this fight against the global pandemic is strongly dependent on its ability to reduce human-to-human contact within country. With no exceptions, all of the affected countries have had to completely or partially minimise public engagement because of the exponential rate of spread with the free movement of people.

Taking the lesson from the already affected parts of the world, it is imperative for Jamaica and others countries that are deploying their delay/ containment strategy to reduce immediately, as best as possible, the exposure of its population through the reduced movement and interaction of people.

Working at home

Jamaica has implemented several measures as part of its containment strategy, including the closure of schools, airports for inbound flights, places of amusement and social gathering, a reduction in the number of persons allowed at public gatherings, and a shift in the labour force from working in office to working at home. Additionally, the Government has issued instructions for senior citizens, specifically persons over 75 years old, to stay home, with few allowances, and those 65 years and older to work from home. These measures have been taken because we have learnt that the elderly and persons with chronic illnesses are at high risk of complications and death if exposed to COVID-19. At the same time, the emphasis on the older persons in the population is not a free pass for younger persons to make light of the regulations passed by the Government. The message is clear: anybody can be affected in one form or another by this disease.

It is early days yet in Jamaica, but from the 26 confirmed cases as at March 25, a glance at the age distribution of cases shows an average age of 50 years, with the oldest currently affected being 79 years and the youngest, 24 years old. In addition to demonstrating that younger persons can be affected by the disease, it should be made abundantly clear that any selfish action of one section of the population can negatively impact another. If seniors stay home, persons who are careless in their movement and their physical distancing can become transporters of the virus and pass it to grandparents, parents, and older relatives. Even while we may be able to identify our seniors, it is extremely difficult to identify persons living with chronic illnesses and HIV, to whom persons may unknowingly spread the virus to. Therefore, everyone must play his part to safeguard his fellowman.

The message here is that humans are the carriers of the virus, but if we reduce our movement, we can reduce the spread of the virus and the adverse impact it will have on not just the health of our population, but also the far-reaching implications for our socio-economic development.

Jamaicans must recognise that we have the power to slow the spread and save lives. Be a hero! Stay home! Save lives!