Jamaica Observer - Guest editorial

This newspaper believes the Government’s decision to move away from weekday lockdown measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus is sensible.

Indeed, hindsight—which we concede is 20/20 vision—suggests that the no-movement mandate on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, four weeks in a row, was not a good idea in the first place.

The negative effect on productivity and the national economy is obvious.

But, more crucially, it seems to us Jamaica is very different from some other places where such measures may have definitively slowed virus spread.

To begin with, economic realities dictate that a large percentage of the Jamaican population plan for, and cope with, their needs and wants on a short-term basis.

Many survive from one day to the next. Hence the alarming rush on wholesale and retail outlets of all sizes, money transfer windows, banks, et al, on reopening days, and again on Saturdays, in recent weeks.

The potential for such congestion to increase virus spread, defeating the very purpose of the lockdowns, was crystal clear.

We welcome the one-hour easing of the start of the nightly curfew from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

It should reduce the press outside and inside public transportation vehicles, which, we suspect, provides fertile ground for spreading the virus.

We are at a loss as to why curfew on Saturdays—a market day—is set at 6 p.m. Why not the same as weekdays?

We agree with Prime Minister Andrew Holness that personal responsibility is important in the mix.

By now we all know the danger posed by Covid-19 and the small things each of us must do to reduce the risk of spread, including social distancing, mask-wearing and consistent sanitising.

Beyond that, it’s clear that vaccine hesitancy among Jamaicans is a major hurdle as the authorities strive to come to grips with the health crisis.

Available evidence suggests that those who have taken the vaccine are much less likely to get seriously ill.

In time, we expect that fact to become undeniable in the eyes of most Jamaicans and a crucial element in their decision-making.

Also, as we have noted previously in this space, rules which will soon be implemented by the United States and other countries requiring proof of vaccination for incoming travellers are likely to be pivotal.

We are at one with Mr Holness and others in leadership, including Opposition Leader Mark Golding, that mandating vaccinations for Jamaicans would be a bad idea at this time, given the high levels of opposition.

What should continue at an even faster rate is taking the vaccination drive to people in their communities. The more that happens, the greater will be the levels of vaccine acceptance.

We applaud ­efforts by Mr Holness to ensure the community ­programme is not politicised.

Hence his presence in Kingston Eastern earlier this week with Opposition Member of Parliament Mr Phillip Paulwell, and yesterday in central Jamaica, joining forces with local political representatives, including the Opposition’s Mikael Phillips in Manchester North ­Western.

This is a time, like never before, requiring a unified, non-partisan approach by Jamaica’s political leaders.

—Courtesy Jamaica Observer

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