Things I’ve Learnt During the COVID-19 Crisis – So Far

In Jamaica

1. That public hospitals continue to be in a dire state, despite all the outlandish pr statements of health modernisation by politicians. It was staggering to hear Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie – Chief Medical Officer (CMO) – state that there has been a shortage of ventilators in the intensive care units for quite some time. Is there really only  50 ventilators across the 25 public hospitals in Jamaica?

A shocking revelation given that Christopher Tufton, Health Minister, said in parliament in 2016.

” Mr Speaker …

  • We are preparing our Intensive Care Units and High Dependency areas at hospitals
  • We will be getting additional ventilators, will procure more and make repairs to others that are not presently functioning.”

So what happened?

2. That poor hygiene is common practice across key sectors e.g.

  • Food markets are generally are not cleaned  and sanitized on a regular basis. Vendors at the famous Coronation Market told the media that theirs had not been cleaned thoroughly for over 12 months.
  • The government owned JUTC buses were generally cleaned just once a day. Once!?
  • That some of the over 200 public health centres and 25 public hospitals (& its immediate surroundings) are not kept clean to humane and high standards by the authorities.

[The audit watchdog needs to investigate whether any government contracts were awarded to private companies to clean these public premises on a regular basis.]

3. The Andrew Holness government dropped the ball and had been more reactive than proactive during this COVID-19 crisis; despite publicity machinery of govt and their self-praise might have you believe. Slick communication daily briefings cannot cover up the earlier pitfalls and electioneering fever the govt was creating throughout February.

  • Jamaican public first became aware of the COVID-19 crisis in Wuhan, China as some of their compatriots there raised concerns and called out for assistance to come home. The initial response by the Jamaica government on 7th February was lukewarm and lacked any sincerity. The students were told to remain in Wuhan. They were on their own while other countries were sending planes to Wuhan evacuate their people. e.g. The French planes were sent by its government to evacuate their citizens in Wuhan and even picked up some British folks.
  • A day earlier on the 6th February the PM announced a needless by-election for early March for Ruddy Spencer’s old seat. Meaning much of the government machinery and energy was focused on the by-election.
  • Election campaigning was in the air.  Yes, Tufton was on the news daily.  But as we now know the government’s COVID-19 preparedness (e.g. ventilators, testing equipment, quarantine facilities) was lacking despite the minister’s regular media appearance and promises to the contrary.
  • The government’s delay in blocking passenger entry from the UK and US was also misguided and proved costly. Some members of the public did publicly beg the govt to close the borders long before the first positive COVID-19 was confirmed on the island. Tourism and trade were used as the reasons to keep the borders open to certain “key” nations.

4. The number of COVID-19 positive results has been low but that’s because testing has been for the most part minimal.

(As at 27th March) – Why has the govt carried out just 250 COVID-19 tests? 30 of which has proved positive. 

Testing needs to be ramped up by the authorities as Jamaica simply does not know the scale of the virus spread on the island. Those working in the emergency services, social care, airports, wharves, solid waste management should have been tested on a greater scale by now. Testing should have started from the end of February at the latest. Especially at the ports of entry.

5. Credit to the Holness government for their visibility and regular updates over the past 14 days. They had to step up their game in their communication. Yes, there are still some mixed messages which are quickly clarified. Special credit to the Chief Medical Officer in particular for her  clarity and leadership.


1. I learnt that given the growing number of deaths in Iran due to COVID-19 the US govt couldn’t help themselves & decided to impose further sanctions on their number 1 foe in the Middle East. Whilst at the same time Washington offered assistance to Tehran over COVID-19 which seemed hypocritical and was rightly rejected. Meanwhile…

2. ….US Senators (four Republicans and one Democrat) were found to have sold millions in stocks ahead of the coronavirus crisis. Some US senators were privy to an intelligence briefing that described the coronavirus outbreak in much more starker terms than the public was aware.

3. Cuba continues to show once again that during a health crisis they can be relied on to provide professional medical support to other nations.

4. I learnt that Taiwan, Germany, South Korea and Singapore have set the benchmark in managing the COVID-19 outbreak in an effective, aggressive and innovative manner.

  • Singapore closed its borders to China from 1st February, conducted rigorous contact tracing and a lots of testing.
  • The aggressive testing approach in Germany seems to been paying off with a lower death toll compared to some of their EU neighbours. Germany is now conducting up to 500,000 tests per week.
  • South Korea and Italy suffered COVID-19 outbreaks at the same time and the former initially had far more infections. But the South Koreans took to mass testing and had enough test kits in stock to do so. Plus South Korea test kit manufacturers stepped their production immediately. Latest counted – Italy has had over 9000 deaths, South Korea 139. Early detection minimised the spread of COVID-19 in South Korea with no need for lockdown.
  • Taiwan has used what is known as electronic fencing (GPS tracking), where the authorities use location-tracking to ensure people who are quarantined do not leave their homes

5. The growing daily death toll that started off in China then Iran, Spain, France and Italy is just astonishing. Will we ever know the true death toll in North Korea and Iran?

6. The UK government’s initially plan to take the herd immunity approach and allow COVID-19 to spread naturally was very strange given the pressures this would have had on an already overwhelmed NHS. Backfired spectacularly.

7. A timely reminder of how important workers in the public social care sector are to us. So too our public cleaners.

8.  The initial naive response to the COVID-19 outbreak by Donald Trump just the set the wrong tone which sadly some other leaders (especially his close right wing allies) and media houses followed. Proving costly.

9. Politicking continues

  • Netanyahu has managed to hang on to power in Israel for another 18 months.
  • Trump wants troops near the Canadian border.
  • US getting desperate and opted for the old drug-trafficking-charge-trick in order to remove Maduro from Venezuela.
  • Democratic governments are using the COVID-19 crisis as a decoy to angle for more authoritarian powers.
  • Sleeping oil giant Guyana still on edge following an inconclusive general election.

10. I miss live sports.


About africanherbsman1967

Ideas Man
This entry was posted in coronavirus, COVID-19, jamaica, jamaican, journalism, media, politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Things I’ve Learnt During the COVID-19 Crisis – So Far

  1. Good analysis of the crisis both locally and overseas. 👏🏽 There’s not much to add.

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