For weeks now, I have been posting regularly about COVID-19. I would much rather have been writing about the many environmental issues that keep rearing their ugly little heads around the island and across the Caribbean, but I can’t seem to get to them. There is always something new and important to post about “Rona” (short for Coronavirus, as some Jamaicans familiarly call it).
We are not in a happy place right now, however. There is no getting around it. Last night many jaws dropped in horror when 98 new cases were announced over the previous 24 hours. One more patient died (a 74-year-old man from Clarendon) bringing the total to 15. This announcement put the cat among the pigeons. Now we are waiting anxiously for today’s numbers, which are going to be very late; and that does not bode well.
The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) was quite plain in her comments (as she generally is) at last night’s press briefing. When we opened our borders (June 15, just over two months ago), there was a steady, but expected increase in positive numbers. Then came a major event on the Jamaican calendar – the Independence/Emancipation Day holiday. The CMO has linked the current “spike” in numbers to that period – August 1 – 6.
Note that no additional restrictions were placed over the long weekend, which turned into an extended five-day break. The Prime Minister commented at today’s emergency press briefing (in which he announced shorter curfew hours for Kingston & St. Andrew, St. Catherine and Clarendon) that he thought at the time Jamaicans were suffering from “fatigue” after all the restrictions. So, they were given a “bly” and a gentle reminder to abide by the protocols from the PM. Frankly, I would rather be fatigued than lying in a hospital bed.
The more well-heeled left the city to relax at exclusive villas, where they could do plenty of social distancing by the pool. Fine. However, the majority of Jamaicans simply flooded beaches and riversides.
Chicken merry, hawk deh near.
As noted before, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie was less than amused. The beaches and rivers were shut again. Too late, the COVID horse had already bolted.
And then, there was Nomination Day on August 18. The Jamaica Labour Party issued guidelines for the day, which sounded very reasonable. But there is nothing reasonable about Nomination Day. Reason flies out the windows of overcrowded coaster buses, out of the unmasked mouths of eager supporters chanting slogans. And so it was.
In the next ten days, therefore, we can expect another “spike” – because most political candidates (with some notable exceptions, such as East Portland Member of Parliament Ann-Marie Vaz) seemed to make only a feeble effort – or none at all – to control their supporters on Nomination Day. Don’t stop the party!
Chicken merry, hawk deh near.
Today, the Prime Minister announced new restrictions on election campaigning, overriding the protocols already put forward by his party before Nomination Day. The police force is expected to ensure that there are a certain number of people in buses, and that there are only two buses. Enforcement will, once again, be a concern. Why have motorcades at all? Why not get creative and do some online campaigning, perhaps?
Now Education Minister Karl Samuda has pushed back the date for schools to reopen to October 5, due to “unforeseen challenges.” Some challenges can be foreseen, however.
Meanwhile, on the political front, the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) seems to have changed its tune. After the party leader had welcomed the election announcement in Parliament, the PNP is now accusing the government of putting its own interests above those of the people’s health. Oh, what a difference high virus numbers make!
Life is a little sad and dreary. Even our cinemas will be closing tomorrow… But, cheer up! We had a lovely couple of days of rain this week, the garden is flourishing, and Tropical Storm Laura is giving us the cold shoulder; she will pass to the north of us. I think we have got a “bly” from the Director of Hurricanes, up there. This time.
“Rona,” however, is not giving us any such “bly.”