The cutting-edge media story of the last several weeks continues to focus on the spread of the COVID-19 (aka coronavirus) and seems not to be going away (like the virus itself) despite several elections; political campaigning; bombing and war; peace treaties; BREXIT; and several former “hot topics”.
This in itself should be enough to inform us of the possible severe implications, and the need for cautious and detailed planning, preparation, execution, and transparency. Hon. Minister Chris Tufton has started the process but needs help to inform Jamaica, so let us do our part.
It is very simplistic to start our analysis at the level of the world’s stock exchanges as the virus is about people first, and cash and stocks are merely outcomes rather than inputs. The real input that will probably never be answered is: “Is the organism a natural mutation or a genetically designed weapon and can it be programmed to evolve itself”? The answer may never be known, nor will further comment be made by any nation in regard to biological warfare.
So let us look at a brief series of developments that will help us to understand; not panic; and become proactive in our own defence. I will try to go in a short, logical sequence so that each stage can lend itself to possibilities; preparation; not panic. So here we go:
- COVID-19 does exist.
- It seems to have originated/occurred in China.
- It is spreading worldwide across Europe; the Far East; Australia; North Africa; the Middle East; North America; Central America; South America; and now the Caribbean.
- It is spread by human contact (so far).
- Therefore humans need to be inspected; tested; isolated; quarantined; and treated wherever possible.
- To do 5 (above) then personnel, equipment, and laboratory supplies need to be abundant.
- If the virus does reach a country, then public gatherings need to be strictly regulated: movies, bars, dances, churches, some work and transport, election campaigning; and most importantly, schools.
- Many work environments do necessitate human interaction in order to operate, such as hospitals and clinics; hotels; restaurants; retail; call centres; public transport; airlines; and ships. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
- If schools close, then the areas listed in 8 (above) intensify due to a real problem of personnel and access to classes even as external examinations loom in May and June.
- Closed schools will greatly impact the parental roles and responsibilities from daycare right up to high schools. This will cause absenteeism and a slowdown in work places.
- Some industries can work remotely or from home but the success is dependent on the ability of the providers to keep Internet connections working and at fast speeds.
- Government services would seem to be most threatened due to some deficiencies in electronic/computing infrastructure. Of note is the antiquated N.I.S. pension system that forces many elderly people (a known vulnerable group) to have to go in person to a post office.
I will stop at the dozen above and suggest that everyone needs to take the necessary precautions that are not too different from hurricane preparation, excepting the fact that should we be impacted by the virus it will not be a 2 to 7 day event.
Simple things taken for granted like: who will replenish the ATMs and keep them sterile (and where will Superman change his clothes); what are the sanitation procedures in homes, offices, private homes; potable water supplies; electricity; food supplies; cooking gas; pharmaceutical supplies; elevator repairs; law and order; and other survival necessities.
Vigilance and cooperation should be our national goal, and survival is the name of the game. Plans should be discussed and agreed urgently, and explained to the public through every communication channel. People are at the beginning and the end of this dilemma, and those who lead must act quickly and in a calm and proactive manner.