Sat | Jun 6, 2020

Editorial | A ray of light

Published:Saturday | April 4, 2020 | 12:07 AM

Good news can get lost in a time of crisis. But in these crisis-stricken times, good news is exactly what the people need to buoy their spirits amid the head-spinning statistics of sickness and death caused by the coronavirus.

Jamaica’s history is rich with the stories of persons who have stepped up and made remarkable innovations in their field of endeavour, and their monuments are still standing. We speak of persons like Dr Thomas P. Lecky, who developed breeds of cattle suited to tropical climes, and Professor Manley West and Dr Albert Lockhart, for their groundbreaking glaucoma medicine called Canasol, which was developed from the ganja plant.

As this mysterious virus makes its deadly sweep across continents, doctors, scientists, engineers, software developers, and designers are dreaming up new gadgets and inventions that will, hopefully, slow its spread, even as we await the universal approval of a vaccine for the coronavirus.

Already, ventilators, hands-free door pulls, and snood masks are getting the requisite approvals in Wales to be used to mitigate the effects of the virus. These initiatives mostly come from well-established and well-funded companies. But sometimes, good ideas come from unexpected places, for example, a young student at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech). This week, we learnt that UTech student Rayvon Stewart was lauded by Baroness Scotland, secretary general of the Commonwealth Secretariat, for his XERMOSOL invention as a possible key weapon in the fight against COVID-19. Field and laboratory tests have found XERMOSOL efficient in killing about 99.9 per cent of deadly pathogens.

Stewart’s device uses ultraviolet technology to kill bacteria found on doorknobs, thereby reducing the spread of bacteria. It would be particularly useful in heavily trafficked spaces such as offices, schools, and hospitals. We hope this product will be successfully tested and given the requisite approval to be brought to market in good time.

Face Masks

There was another report in the local media about inventors who have used their creative minds to develop 3D programming and other systems to build ventilators and face shields. Face masks, which were, for many years, an established feature of life in Asian countries, may be fully adopted in other societies in the future. There is sufficient evidence to confirm that face masks can protect the wearer from spreading viral infections. We trust that, too, will get the requisite approvals.

It is, indeed, gratifying that these young people are using technology to provide solutions to some of our current problems. The success of these efforts should inspire other innovators to come up with products that can be used to arrest the spread of bacterial and viral infections because it seems certain that there will be others to follow COVID-19.

One of the other positive outcomes of the crisis is that some businesses have demonstrated that they are socially committed and have offered resources to help those sidelined by the virus. Indeed, difficult times tend to bring out the best in humanity. The current crisis has also ignited the human spirit in some celebrities, whose generosity is on full display.

People with great ideas often feel frustrated and let down because of lack of financing to take them through testing, approval, and, finally, the production stage. We urge our business sector to assist young people, where it is possible, to help them bring their creativity to the fore as they do their part in the advancement of our country.