Lessons learnt from COVID-19 must not be forgottenSaturday, April 03, 2021
We note a hint of optimism from Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie as reported by the Jamaica Information Service on April 1.
Dr Bisasor McKenzie told Jamaicans that data suggested “possibly, a plateauing in the number of [COVID-19] cases” over the previous two weeks relative to the comparable prior period.
However, she was at pains to point out that it was “too early” to say whether this was the start of a downward trend.
Her caution seems well-placed. Experience over the last year, from across the globe and in Jamaica, suggests that every time people begin to relax in responding to the threat of COVID-19 there is another surge.
On Good Friday, the latest figures from the Ministry of Health and Wellness showed 424 more COVID-19 cases over the previous 24 hours and eight more deaths.
Up to Friday 607 people were confirmed to have died from COVID-19 in Jamaica since the outbreak began here just over a year ago.
Such has been the effect that the authorities felt compelled to impose lockdown measures on three successive weekends, including the current Easter period. Indeed, even those who will suffer economic fallout from the lockdowns have been mostly supportive — in the hope that curtailed movement and elimination of crowded situations will minimise virus spread.
In the Jamaican context there is no easy or foolproof method of virus containment. Among the obvious weaknesses inherent in the current measure has been the crowded rush on retail centres — threatening the purpose of the containment strategy — as people stock up on supplies.
Also, there seems no straightforward solution to overcrowded public transportation, especially in a context of imminent curfew and lockdown periods.
All of us — the authorities included — are learning as we go along in dealing with this health crisis.
Jamaicans shouldn't forget that just under a year ago they were being advised to leave mask wearing to the sick and their caregivers. What a difference a year makes! Now, legislation has been passed in the Jamaican Parliament that will make failure to wear a mask in public a 'ticketable' offence.
In a real sense, the world was done a favour when China became the first to face COVID-19 — that country having had the experience of dealing with earlier versions of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) over the last 20 years or so.
Previous lessons led the Chinese authorities to the early lockdown of Wuhan, where the COVID-19 outbreak started and other geographic areas where it was detected; as well as imposition of mandatory measures such as mask wearing, social distancing and strict hygiene.
It took longer than it should have, but for the most part the rest of the world is now following the examples set by China.
The hope — not just in Jamaica but everywhere — is that accelerated vaccination programmes will bring this disastrous pandemic under control and remove the need for lockdowns and other strategies which so severely hinder economic and social life.
But even should the much-desired herd immunity be achieved, people and their leaders everywhere will be well advised to internalise the disciplines and lessons learnt over the last year. For no one knows what's up ahead.
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