Sun | Sep 19, 2021

Garth Rattray | Who’s to blame for COVID-19 uptick?

Published:Monday | August 2, 2021 | 12:05 AM
Dr Shanice Thompson prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine at Mona Ageing and Wellness Centre on Saturday, July 31.
Dr Shanice Thompson prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine at Mona Ageing and Wellness Centre on Saturday, July 31.

When it was announced that the COVID-19 restrictions would be relaxed, I got a sinking feeling deep inside. Our Government announced that it was going to ease the COVID-19 measures and ‘watch it’. However, whenever very sick patients come to me and confess that they were watching their pain, their fainting spells, their bleeding, their headaches, their weight loss, their whatever – things never turn out well.

It didn’t take perspicacity or genius to know what was going to happen. It was not the time to ease up and watch what happens. It was an extremely risky gamble. It appeared as if the Ministry of Health and Wellness was not in agreement; when squeezed for an explanation, the minister explained that it was a parliamentary thing. Everyone fully understands the need for people to eat a food (make a living), but there are proper ways to go about facilitating commerce while keeping risk to a minimum.

By now, it’s common knowledge that our percentage positivity rate was way off the target of being below five per cent for two weeks consecutively. And, our vaccination rate was only about 4.7 per cent. No one knows what our rate of infection-acquired immunity is. I dare say that the majority of citizens either want to wait before deciding on accepting a vaccine, and an indeterminate number do not intend to take any vaccine whatsoever. The country is filled with vulnerable people. We are an ageing population, with many at-risk, middle-aged and elderly citizens in need of protection.

People are soaking up Internet lies and scaremongering. Many are choosing to believe the plethora of negative fabrications concerning vaccine safety. Shockingly, despite all the government effort, many of my elderly patients with multiple underlying conditions are afraid to take the vaccine, because they believe that they are too ‘sick’ and/or too feeble to be immunised. In fact, they are the ones that need immunising the most.

INVITING AND SUPPORTING COVID-19

By their actions, many people are not only inviting the SARS-Co2 virus into our society, they are also facilitating and supporting it. The fight against this pandemic needs to be approached with the same verve with which political campaigns are fought. Nobody simply encourages citizens to vote for the better party, there are town criers, flags, interminable media blitzes, town-hall meetings, grass-roots engagement and motorcades. The fake news regarding the pandemic and vaccines must be countered. We need to be unrelenting in educating our citizens.

We need COVID-19 marshals for reconnaissance, monitoring, informing, advising, encouraging and reporting potential and serious problems to the authorities. Marshals should also inspect entertainment venues and be present to ensure the adherence to protocols. The Government has already embarked on incentives for immunisation, but we need rewards, like caps, drinking containers, knapsacks, and other small items given to random citizens seen obeying the COVID-19 measures.

Because the virus has been allowed to remain within various populations for so long, more infectious and serious mutations (strains) have emerged, and are emerging. The longer we give the virus free rein, the longer it will stay around, the more it will challenge our current vaccines – and may even make them obsolete sooner than expected. Vaccines are safer than most regularly taken medications (even the over-the-counter ones). They definitely reduce illness and save lives, but we must continue employing the basic prevention methods of distancing, hygiene and wearing masks properly until our positivity rate consistently remains way below five per cent and our COVID-19 hospitalisations are extremely rare.

So, as expected, the Government had to walk back the eased restrictions. The primary blame must be laid at the feet of the Government, because the necessary conditions for easing restrictions were ignored, and nothing substantial was done to change the mindset and habits of our people before easing the restrictions. As Anthony Red Rose said in his song, Tempa, “Cyaan seh me nevah did a warn yuh…”

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.