COVID-19 Good Stuff (Don’t We Have Enough of the Bad Stuff?) from Jamaica

Life in the Time of COVID-19.

It’s hard not to keep focusing on the rising numbers, the gloomy predictions and the heart-wrenching stories of pain and loss. We are living in Strange Days.

To be honest I am also getting tired of the attempts at humor online that sometimes fall terribly flat (my sense of humor is diminishing, perhaps?) But there are still some fun moments.

I am even more tired of the nonsensical “fake” news that still circulates and is still being blindly shared by all and sundry. Are we that stupid? Personally, I am looking to find a calmer space, and have downloaded the Deepak Chopra meditation app on my phone. My husband is taking refuge in music. We ration our intake of news, although it’s tempting to keep checking. And we have our lovely yard, filled with sunshine, a gentle breeze, our two sweet dogs. Compared to many others we have to “give thanks.”

So there are always the positives – even on our vulnerable island, where so much is at stake and resources are so few. It may seem like a cliché to say that Jamaicans are resilient, strong people (I know this is annoying, because sometimes one has no choice but to “be strong.”)

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is increasing its support for the region this year in light of the pandemic. Therese Turner-Jones, IDB ‘s General Manager for the Caribbean Country Group and Jamaica Country Representative, stresses that regional governments “need urgent support” in this article“The small, open economies of the Caribbean are taking a hard hit” from the virus, she observes. And we are not even over the worst, yet.

The Kingston Public and Victoria Jubilee Hospitals received a cheque for $2 million March 25, 2020 from Man-Hing Company Limited. Chung Henry (centre), general manager, Man-Hing Company Limited, presents the cheque to Dr. Garth McDonald (second right), senior medical officer, Victoria Jubilee Hospital and Wentworth Charles (right), board chairman, SERHA. Sharing in the handing over are Dr. Natalie Whylie (left), senior medical officer, Kingston Public Hospital and Mrs. Diane McIsaacs, deputy chief medical officer, KPH & VJH. (Photo: South East Regional Health Authority)

The private sector is showing its heart, its kindness in many ways. The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica has gone into top gear, committing J$150 million to purchase ventilators (the sooner we get those in, the better) and is collaborating with various entities in assistance efforts. These include the Chinese community island-wide, who have already donated supplies and have more coming in “to support our Jamaican brothers and sisters,” according to their Liaison Officer.

Some of the goods already shipped by the Chinese business community to Jamaica. (Photo: McKoys News)

The Man-Hing Company Limited has donated J$2 million to the Kingston Public Hospital and Victoria Jubilee Hospital, to be used to purchase protective gear and equipment for front line health workers.

The Le Antonio’s Foundation in Montego Bay is seeking support and sponsors for its efforts to provide hot meals for forty inner-city children in the inner city – more details here.

So are diaspora-linked organizations such as the non-profit Sanmerna Foundation Limited, which has partnered with the Canada-based Kay Morris Foundation Limited to donate US$20,000 worth of medical supplies and equipment to the Kingston Public Hospital. This is their special Beds For Jamaica Initiative (BFJA), designed to help hospitals in Jamaica. Donations included 9 beds, 9 mattresses with head and foot boards, 1 stretcher with mattress, 3 reclining blood pressure chairs, 4 wheel chairs, 1 patient assistance bar and 20 boxes of medical supplies. Additionally, special medical supplies include X-ray prep kits, surgical gowns, diapers, sterile bipolar disposable cords, dry seal chest drain and other valuable items were handed over.

Royan Green (second right), representative from Sanmerna Foundation Limited hands over donated items to Dr. Natalie Whylie (centre), Senior Medical Officer, Kingston Public Hospital, on March 25, 2020. Sharing in the handover are from left Mrs. Diane McIsaacs, Deputy CEO, KPH and Victoria Jubilee Hospital; Mrs. Joan Walker-Nicholson, Director of Nursing Services, KPH and Mrs. Kathleen Cooper-Brown, CEO, KPH &VJH. (Photo: South Eastern Regional Health Authority)

Embassies and Consulates are supposed to help their citizens overseas (first and foremost)… Over 100 Jamaicans, working in the hospitality industry in the United States, found themselves stranded at Atlanta’s international airport, unable to get home before Jamaica closed its borders. They are now accommodated in various U.S. cities for the time being. Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamina Johnson Smith observed: “Through the excellent cooperation among our Consul General in New York, our Consul General in Miami and the Honorary Consul in Atlanta, arrangements were made to assist our nationals. For those who did not have friends or family in Atlanta with whom they could stay, the Ministry team secured the agreement of the relevant airlines to reroute our nationals to appropriate cities at no charge. This also meant securing for some, the agreement of their employers to either take them back on the job or to secure accommodations for them.” That must have been quite a lot of work.

Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie (right), outlines Coronavirus (COVID-19) safeguards being implemented by the Ministry to protect the indigent, during a press conference at Jamaica House on Monday (March 23). Listening is Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, who also addressed the press conference. (Photo: Rudranath Fraser/JIS)

Locally, and within communities, neighborhoods are mobilizing to support those who are particularly vulnerable – bearing in mind that, by law, those who are 75 years old and over are required to stay home (by law) and to only go out for short, essential trips. This includes my very own community. I am proud of our efforts!

Those with compromised immune systems, underlying health issues, and those with disabilities, as well as our seniors, need special attention at this time. I am glad to see that the Ministry of Local Government has received additional funding for the homeless and the very poor from the Ministry of Finance. There is always so much more to be done, but…

Now is the time to support each other: our small business people and entrepreneurs, our farmers, our neighbors. Wherever, whenever and however we can.

Kingston Creative’s very first Virtual ArtWalk will take place on Sunday, March 29 from 11AM – 2PM on IGTV @kingstoncreativejm

My main point is…Please do not think that nothing good is happening on our island. We are doing our best, or at least many of us are, in our own areas. Things have come alive online. Kingston Creative has a Virtual Art Walk on IG Live, coming up Sunday. Zoom meetings, yoga classes, online doctor’s consultations, new WhatsApp groups, people working remotely…and on the ground, home delivery services are proliferating.

Last night too, significantly, the Ministry of Health and Wellness held its first digital press briefing on COVID-19 on Zoom. It was also streamed elsewhere, but the Zoom meeting seemed to work well.

Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton participating in Jamaica’s first digital press conference on COVID-19, on Zoom, on March 25.

Sadly though, some of us are still behaving like “covidiots.” That includes spreading fake news, encouraging discrimination, and putting people’s lives in danger. They need to stop the nonsense, now! (I am going to be writing a bit more about this tomorrow – so stay tuned!)

This is, after all, a matter of life and death. Not a “joke ting.”



One thought on “COVID-19 Good Stuff (Don’t We Have Enough of the Bad Stuff?) from Jamaica

  1. I think if you’re fortunate to have family and friends around/nearby and are able to contact however those and anyone who needs to hear a voice or see a face, then you are in a good place. There’s lots to do, though some are realizing how they allowed their lives to be limited, including not understanding what it takes to raise children. But, we also know that many are struggling and if we can find them and give them some relief and comfort then I think that will raise our sense of wellness too. It’s possible to venture out, especially to exercise (or teach your teen to drive) and it’s a chance to see if others are in need. Many are just having their normal lives, especially if work cannot be done at home (eg security guards, medical personnel) and a wave and hello goes a long way for them.


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