Sun | May 16, 2021

Alfred Dawes | COVID Dub Fi Dub

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2021 | 12:13 AM

Anyone who has been following The Gleaner and other news outlets over the past few weeks may have come across the biggest clash since Vybz Kartel and Mavado. This back and forth sees noted doctors and public figures sparring over whether COVID-19 containment measures are needed in Jamaica.

On one side is a renowned doctor supported by none other than the Gargamel himself, Buju Banton, preaching that we need to free the people because COVID-19 is not as deadly in Jamaica. On the other side, the Alliance is made up of medical professionals, who denounce irresponsible mavericks damaging efforts at preventing countless COVID-19 deaths. The beef has played out in the media with both sides trading blows. Notwithstanding the entertainment derived from these clashes in an era with no Sting, there are merits to both sides of the argument that create a captive audience.

Some have labelled him as crazy as he speaks and writes so passionately. But the instigator is unperturbed. He has one simple foundation to his argument: COVID-19, like diseases caused by other coronaviruses, does best in cold countries with low humidity. This is a fact borne out of the results of several studies and real life. The death rates are significantly higher in temperate climates, and were we to stop using the PCR to diagnose the disease, the numbers would be even less in tropical countries. He posits that the hysteria created by our response to the virus is worse than the virus itself. The toll on the economy, healthcare and education is tremendous. He believes we should take off our masks and simply move on with our lives. This sentiment was shared by dancehall legend and former mask vendor until people pointed out the hypocrisy, Buju Banton. What makes him so controversial is that whereas there are sensible middle-of-the-road points, he extends his arguments to the fringes, flying in the face of the recommendations of the majority of experts.

I often defer to the experts in the field with one caveat. Their advice must pass the smell test. Unfortunately, oftentimes it is the authority of the experts that lead us down the wrong road, as the World Health Organization (WHO) has done again and again during the pandemic. It was the WHO that said you should not close borders on a country fighting an epidemic as the economic fallout would make the fight worse. How many alive or dead would in retrospect sanction the WHO-guided decision not to isolate China when the outbreak began? It was also the WHO that advised that persons not showing symptoms could not spread the virus. That we should not wear masks if we are not showing symptoms and that nonN-95 masks offer no protection but instead are harmful because we keep touching our faces. The WHO chief urged the world to get it right because it was the vulnerable healthcare systems in developing countries such as in Africa that would suffer the most. Guess which continent is doing the best with COVID-19? The WHO has flip-flopped and/or used semantics so much on their position on lockdowns that at this point we don’t know where they stand.


Notwithstanding those egregious sins by international experts, our local response has been fairly well orchestrated and the voices of our local experts must now address the counterpoints in a non-academic setting where the masses can be reached. If they fail to do so, then there is a public commentary void that will be filled by every Dr Tom, Dick and Harry in their hunger for 15 minutes of fame. One recent example was barely disguised pontification on what was deemed moral without having ever read Henry David Thoreau, and rather shamefully, not knowing that the 18th-century maxim, Primum non nocere, or ‘first, do no harm’, is not found in the third century BC Hippocratic Oath. Nature abhors a vacuum, and until we address the concerns of the lockdown enthusiasts, the set-my-people-free faction, antivaxxers and conspiracy theorists, we will continue to be split into factions based on which doctor jockey (DJ) we prefer. This is unfortunate as now more than ever is the time for unity.

So I am proposing that all the warring factions assemble for the greatest one-night debate on earth and do a COVID Clash that will be streamed on Verzus for all Jamaican dancehall fans to see. As I have sat on panel discussions with a few of the doctors without the conversations devolving into any bottle-throwing incidents, I am clearly qualified as unbiased and hereby nominate myself for emcee. As fans know, the format will be one song or argument alternating with a counteraction from the other side with no interruptions or (especially to you, Buju, we saw you do it to a young Kartel), no grabbing the mic. The clash would allow Jamaicans to hear both sides of the argument at once, rather than waiting for days for rebuttals. Only then can we make a decision, as a people, as to how we will handle the pandemic Jamaican-style. So dancehall fans from yaad and abroad, join me in calling out the DJs for the clash that will define our lifetime. Let us have a COVID Dub Fi Dub!

- Alfred Dawes is a general, laparoscopic, and weight-loss surgeon; Fellow of the American College of Surgeons; former senior medical officer of the Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital; former president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association. @dr_aldawes. Email feedback to and