Some decisions not based on emotions

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Some decisions not based on emotions

Glenn
Tucker

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

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The degree of one's emotions vary inversely with one's knowledge of the facts. — Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), British philosopher, mathematician and historian.

People's National Party spokesman on national security Fitz Jackson is upset. He claims that the denial of entry to 45 Jamaican workers on a cruise ship by the Government is “unconscionable…inhumane and draconian”. He adds, “Irrespective of the powers granted under the Disaster Risk Management Act, every Jamaican has the right of entry into the island and this right should not be arbitrarily denied to anyone without an appropriate plan of action for their protection.”

I am taking the position that Jackson's time is so heavily mortgaged he is unable to follow the events that have unfolded in this country over the past several weeks with COVID-19. The virus that has afflicted more than 2.2 million people worldwide, killed 150,000, and there is still no known cure. World economies are crumbling and people are in fear. Most countries have instituted total lockdown of their borders as a significant step towards containing the spread of the virus.

While the leadership of major countries like the US and UK are being pilloried for poor response in this crisis, resulting in 36,000 and 15,000 deaths respectively, international organisations have been showering encomiums on the Jamaican Government for exhibiting quality leadership in this matter.

Yes, we do have 143 cases here (at the time of writing), but let me give him a breakdown. Our problems started with Jamaicans returning home carrying the virus and, unwittingly, spreading it. Of the 143 cases we have 31 are carriers who returned from abroad, and 33 came in contact with them. I am convinced that when investigations are concluded the others will be linked to these travellers and their contacts. So, but for these returning residents, with most cases arriving during the asymptomatic incubation period, Jamaica would be virus-free. Businesses would be up and running. Schools would be open. We could say goodbye to our dead with a modicum of dignity. And the $25-billion package could be directed elsewhere.

Jackson speaks of the Disaster Emergency Act and suggests that it can be ignored. Well, there is no such act in Jamaica. I suspect that he may be groping for the Emergency Powers Act, (June 6, 1938). If that is so, let me mention the provisions at Section 3 (2)(a):

“Make provision for the detention of persons and the deportation and exclusion of persons from Jamaica.” The objective of this Act is to protect the general population. The objective of the Government's decision in this time of panic and crisis is to protect the general population.

In New York, for example, the virus began to spread there in mid-February, weeks before the first confirmed case. Harm Bakel, a geneticist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, concluded that the virus was brought to the region mainly by travellers from Europe, not Asia. Studying a different group, researchers from the Grossman School of Medicine came to strikingly similar conclusions. They came to these conclusions by studying genomes (a set of chromosomes) from coronaviruses taken from New Yorkers.

A group of researchers recently conducted work which was published in the journal, Science. The research used a disease transmission model to simulate the impact of travel limitations on the spread of COVID-19. Conclusion 4 is set out below:

“But travel restrictions, coupled with reducing person-to-person transmission, could significantly slow the disease.

“A 25 per cent or 50 per cent reduction in the rate of transmission seems to have the greatest benefit in mitigating the epidemic. These reductions could be achieved through early detection and isolation of cases, as well as behavioural changes. Coupled with travel restrictions, this could help keep global spread to a minimum.”

There is an abundance of evidence to suggest that containment of the global spread of COVID-19 as border control measures such as airport screening and travel restrictions have been implemented in several countries with tremendous success.

There are some interesting similarities with our Caribbean neighbours that may be of interest. The vessel on which these Jamaicans are working also has workers from the Dominican Republic. That country has nearly 4,000 residents who have tested positive and 200 deaths from the disease. The first documented case of local transmission there was a returning resident. She refused to be quarantined, returned home, infected her neighbour and in two weeks that province was flooded with positive cases. The numbers jumped when 20 doctors went on a cruise and many returned COVID-19 positive. In that country, cruise arrivals were suspended from all ports and coasts, regardless of who was on-board.

In Trinidad, it was a resident returning from Switzerland who introduced the virus to her country. The numbers spiked when 68 Trinidadians went on a cruise. When they returned, 40 tested positive. One of the most perfect and efficient incubators for the virus seems to be cruise ships.

Jackson needs to be assured that workers on a vessel are not likely to be thrown overboard if their time at sea is extended for two or three extra weeks. Well, not under these circumstances. But the country needs a favour from Jackson. There are two video clips that have gone viral. They feature two women claiming to be supporters of the Opposition People's National Party shouting to residents in Franklin Town to defy orders to stay at home and “Come out a you yaad! Come out a you house!” Please assist in educating them so they can realise there is no political demarcation in the fight against COVID-19, and so all of us should direct our efforts to curtailing the spread and not acting in ways that run counter to that.

One of the prominent 'spreaders' of the virus in the Dominic Republic was a high-profile wedding. During the wedding there was a “crazy hour” during which revellers would engage in a series of acts designed to mock COVID-19 safety precautions. The result, chancellor of the Dominican Republic was later diagnosed COVID-19-positive. He was infected by his son who attended the wedding and was also diagnosed positive. We do not want to end up like this.

None of us would want to deny our brothers and sisters entry to their homeland in normal times. But these are not normal times and we should not make decisions based on our emotions. The word here — and for very good reason — is “tan a yuh yaad”. By extension, the message is “tan weh yuh deh!”

Glenn Tucker, MBA, is an educator and a sociologist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or glenntucker2011@gmail.com.


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