Let’s Stop the Stigma and Discrimination Around COVID-19


“Fight the virus, not the people.”

The Ministry of Health and Wellness is still concerned about stigma and discrimination against those who are suspected of having the virus. When there is a major public health issue, this is the last thing Jamaica needs. It reminds me somewhat of what Jamaicans living with HIV/AIDS faced in their communities and in public places (and this has not entirely gone away). It is sparked by fear of the unknown; but then, much of stigma and discrimination stems from fear and not knowing. The emotions and attitudes (and resulting actions) are similar.

This is what the Ministry had to say on the matter on March 21. Please, let us have more empathy and understanding. Would you like your mother or son to be treated this way because of a disease that he/she will most likely recover from?

And besides, you may just catch it yourself! Just remember: stay home, practice good hygiene, and look after your physical and mental health. That way, you can protect yourself and others.

As Angela Merkel said the other day, let us exercise Good Sense and Heart!

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It has come to the attention of the Ministry of Health and Wellness that a number of Jamaicans have been the victims of physical violence or have otherwise been socially excluded on the suspicion that they may have the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The Ministry understands the fear that many people are experiencing, given the seriousness of the disease. However, Jamaicans must not allow fear to override reason.

Here are some facts to remember and which should help us all to treat with each other rationally and with empathy.

  1. COVID-19 is NOT a death sentence. The majority of persons who become infected will experience only mild symptoms and recover.
  2. While elderly persons have been shown to be especially vulnerable to the disease, ANYONE can be infected.
  3. Taking the necessary steps to keep your home and work environments as well as your hands clean and out of your face constitute some of the best measures to prevent illness.
  4. Being put in quarantine is NOT the end of the world. The period of quarantine typically runs for two weeks. Over that period, you can be monitored by the health authorities, making early intervention possible, in the event you become symptomatic.
  5. The Government of Jamaica is doing its part to ensure the strengthening of the health system to enable the best possible health outcomes for those who may need in-hospital care.
  6. COVID-19 is not a disease that can be fought by any one individual or entity. Success in our efforts to save lives depends on the whole of society, each member doing his/her part to safeguard their individual health but also that of their family and the rest of society.

“The truth is that with COVID-19, where one is vulnerable, ALL are vulnerable. It means, therefore, that we must do our best to take care of each other. If we do that, we can beat this disease, saving more lives than we lose,” said Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Honorable Christopher Tufton.

Here is a good quote to end with, from a book called The Danger of Monoculturalism in the XXI Century by Sunday Adelaja (a Nigerian evangelical pastor who founded a megachurch in the Ukraine – a controversial person to say the least!)

“Stigmatization is terrible for our society because it breeds hatred among individuals.”

It’s simple as that. We need more love and understanding at this point.

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UNICEF’s Voices of Youth is encouraging young people to offer messages of support for those with COVID-19.

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