The date is March 10, 2020. A woman travelling from the UK, unsuspectingly, delivered Jamaica’s first covid case. I remember my Psychometrics class being switched from face-to-face to online learning that evening, as my lecturer thought it best not to risk anyone’s safety via travelling. I remember saying to myself “a it dis, ya now! Di ataklaps reach Jumieka!!. 😂” [this is it! The apocalypse has reached Jamaica!!]
Curfew & Dictatorship
Upon making a fast-food run at 10pm with my sisters, I said “yowwww. A long time me no come out, a dem time ya enuh!” [It’s been a while since I’ve been outside during these hours.] We all laughed. For a WHOLE YEAR, Jamaica has been under what feels like an eternal, non-stop, nightly curfew usually running 8pm-5am, on weekdays. This has been an attempt made by our Prime Minister, colloquially referred to as Brogad, to damper the virus’s spread.
Like they say in church, when the praises go up, the blessings come down. Each and every time the cases go up, Brogad blesses us with more rigorous curfews. However, when the cases go down, he magnifies us with his everlasting mercies by unclenching said measures!
With the most recent being in July:
And after months of strict curfews, Jamaicans rejoiced as if it were the day of Jubilee:
And thus, after the many meet-ups, parties, villa trips, and nightly dances, Brogad announced new curfew and lockdown measures following skyrocketing covid cases! Prior to June 22’s announcement of the new measures, Jamaica’s cases were averaging under 50-60 a day. Sometimes even below 30. But then after Jubilee, the cases jumped to high 100s. We entered August with 300s, and by towards the end, August had as much as 800!
The new measures introduced Sun-Tuesday as no-movement days, with Wed-Fri having 7pm-5am curfews and Saturday having an earlier 6pm curfew. These measures, along with the year-long curfew, had once again aroused talk of the Prime Minister being akin to a dictator of some sort. Which begs me to ask…
What do Jamaicans want?
To live or not to live: such is the overly condensing of Jamaican’s response to the pandemic and the measures in place. We are scared of dying and the hospital fees, but yet we want to be ‘OUTSIDEEEEEEE.’ We wish for the Prime Minister to give us stronger measures, but yet some of us say he’s a dictator and that he doesn’t care about the people. Our PM recently came out in an interview saying:
“I’m human. I’m not infallible. Errors can be made, and I’m certain that upon reflection, there are things that could have been done differently. I find that there are a lot of finger-pointing … people looking to blame … but I’m focusing on the job”
“There could be a different reality if we did not respond to the growing demand, and that reality could have been social upheaval. We would have had deliberate civil disobedience; we would have had businesses collapse; we would have had people having serious psychological damage by virtue of the sustained lockdown,”
To which, many on social media have called him weak and spineless for his “trying to please everybody” approach to tackling the pandemic.
And then, some of us are so unruly that we will post videos on social media saying that we will be not be adhering to the curfew measures and even go so far, as to explicitly insult and disrespect the Prime Minister for his measures— which has happened twice by the way. The first instance, the individual was arrested, made to apologize and released after a short period. The second instance, the individual was arrested in his home and made to apologize publicly; all of which was on video. Now, this latter event evoked outcry on Twitter, where many believed that the PM’s dictatorship had indeed been confirmed. Henceforth I ask: was this an abuse of resources and simply a violation of a citizen’s rights? Or, was this him “doing the job” and showing some backbone?
I think it’s both. Our PM oversees some of the worst and most headache-causing people, ever. Frankly speaking, I believe we are only surpassed by Americans. It is evident that Brogad is tired of the foolishness and is willing to do anything to handle the situation. Which can unfortunately result in actions involving abuse of legal authority, as mentioned above. The police have since apologized for their misstep.
Nevertheless, many are blaming the PM for July’s relaxed measures, which the country is still recovering from.
Many of us felt that our health-care system would never successfully handle the virus and that we’d all be dead. For a year, our hospitals have been managing covid better than we all had expected. To which, I salute our workers for their outstanding work! Nevertheless, we are but a small island nation, with limited resources. This has resulted in many dying due to lack ventilators and beds.
Almost everyday on social media and local news, there are stories of hospital staff being strained and drained, catching the virus despite everything they do, and some are even are dying. And although this reality isnt unique to Jamaica, what complicates our situation differently from others’, is our limited resources, and us being a much smaller country, as mentioned earlier. Thus, our hospitals being overrun with nonstop covid patients, puts quite the strain on our public healthcare system. Recently I’ve been seeing posts online showing absurd prices for post-covid care and the necessary drugs:
Seeing mass hospitalization isn’t anything new, but what is new, is seeing these absorbitant prices. This means, that the government was subsiziding a huge portion of these covid intakes and now that the cash reserves are low, they can no longer do this. What does that mean for the average citizen with crappy, or no health insurance??? Mean seh yo goose cook! [Your goose is cooked!]
Right now, the government is also trying not to be strong-armed by gas company IGL, who is currently our sole provider of oxygen for the ventilators. Speaking of oxygen — on August 28, it was announced that had we exhausted our supplies. You read that right. OXYGEN. Now, the government is enbattled in a he-said, she-said with said company, where blame is being shifted. Luckily, two or three days after the announcement of shortage, IGL was able to ship four truck-loads of oxygen to the country. Till the next shipment, we can only hope that it lasts.
Vaccination Stagnation — Information vs Misinformation
Oh, vaccines…The big bad wolf of the whole pandemic crisis…or so everyone thinks it is. Vaccines are not new. We have all been getting vaxxed since we were babies. Jamaica requires that every child receives a set list of vaccines before they are eligible to attend school. Traditionally, these shots were recorded onto a thick piece of paper. Currently, they are now recorded into a little blue book that looks like this:
In the 1950s when the polio disease was having a grand time in Jamaica, everyone had to get the shot. Children had to be vaxxed before entering school for the upcoming semesters. So, whats so sepcial about the covid shot? Nuh di siem ting? [Isn’t it the same?]
The government is banking on a covid slow-down for these two weeks of September, so that as many schools island-wide may resume face-to-face learning; till then, all schools will continue solely through remote learning. They are, however, holding secondary schools to a standard of having a 65% vaccination rate for a reopening. And thus, school staffs are being strongly encouraged to get their shots so to ensure a smooth and safe resumption of classes.
But, I don’t think that this will be happening, since many parents are of the view that their children should be absolved from the vaccine, as they do not trust it. And when you add the fact that school staff themselves are shying away from the shot…seems like teachers will once again be speaking to themselves on Teams, Zoom and other video calling platforms for a little while longer. 😬
I guess there is a silver lining amidst the confusion. Jamaicans went from “me nuh chuss di vaccine!” to “me wah d fiza!” [“I don’t trust the vaccine!”] to [“I want the Pfizer!”] This brand shopping has made the Pfizer shot almost always unavailable at vaccination sites. While I understand not trusting the Johnson & Johnson shot, the Oxford AstraZenecca is literally right there and is just as effective and safe as the Pfizer. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying people should simply shut up and just take the jab…Google is free, after all.
If you can believe the conspiracy theories that you see on Facebook and WhatsApp, then you can research the vaccines for yourself to make an informed decision. You hear that mommy? You can do research on Google!! Unfortunately, many Jamaicans aren’t tech savvy enough to do this, nor do they possess the necessary reading ability to complete this task, which is understandable, since a lot of the information on the vaccine isn’t in layman’s terms for the average citizen.
This is where the government comes in, with their educational campaigns. Tragically, in the beginning of our vaccination rollouts, our gov’t failed to successfully educate the people on the shot and thus, this uncertainty greatly contributed to the people’s mistrust of the vaccine. Since then, however, they have taken the initiative to begin a campaign titled ‘Every Vax Counts‘ where they visit various vaccination sites and communities, to spread awareness and answer the questions and concerns people may have regarding vaccines.
However, it seems that people’s unwillingness to take the vaccine, also stems from their discontent with PM Holness. After all, a good leader is not just defined by their policies and actions, but also by their charisma and personality—I mean, look at Obama! Many people voted for the Jamaica Labour Party in 2020’s general elections because the opposing party in their opinion, wasn’t up to standard. Therefore, if most of your voters chose you and your party because they felt they had no other choice…one slipup and thats it for your approval ratings. Jamaicans are an emotional and passionate people. If you touch our hearts, we will respect you.
NEVERTHELESS, how can you be reluctant to take the vaccine, and yet you’re out and about, without a mask, endangering yourself and others?? And then, you’re in the hospital, sick and posting on social media that you got “the covid.” Make it make sense, because it doesn’t. 😐
I sometimes think to myself, how can misinformation be defeated, when persons of authority are among the woefully ignorant spreading said misinformation? From healthcare workers to members of government—false news is a mistress with many misters! Lol, it’s the fact that I’m writing this and I just so happened to stumble upon the following tweet, of a Senator speaking said ignorance. I tell you, we’re doomed.
Senator and former Member of Parliament, Damion Crawford, seems to neither fully understand how the vaccine works, nor is he visualizing the bigger picture of his statement. Crawford believes that organizations do not need to mandate vaccinations, because based on his knowledge/the knowledge that he has come across, those who are vaccinated are less likely to get covid, be hospitalized and die. Thus, those who are un-vaxxed are mainly a risk to themselves.
While the former points are true, this doesn’t prevent the vaccinated from contracting the virus and spreading it to the unvaccinated! To clarify: virus =/= disease! The virus gives the disease. Therefore, while the vaxxed are less-likely to manifest the symptoms of the virus, aka the disease, they can still contract said virus and pass it on to others. This is where everyone being vaccinated comes in, which shields us from a mass hospitalization—like what we have now.
So, Crawford, our former Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, now Senator of government and a holder of 2 degrees both in Tourism Management, implied that organizations shouldn’t mandate vaccinations from workers, and that the unvaccinated are mainly a risk to no-one else but themselves….😂 Because clearly they’re not the ones crowding the ICU’s and shortening the government’s subsidy for health care, right?! Which in turn affects our tourism capability, as seen in our latest honorary achievement of making the CDC’s travel warning list. Just like in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, we sure know how to take home the gold.
But hey, what do I know? I’m just a 22 y.o. university graduate, typing words onto a screen because I have nothing else to do.
Also, shoutout to my sis, Avia, for helping me with the direction of this post! Love you sis! ❤💪🏽
Till next time, stay safe and keep healthy!