Changing human habits takes time. The current pandemic has forced many changes to daily life inside and outside of the home and workplace. Apart from staying home and not congregating, the most challenging change for many people is the need to wear masks. In Jamaica, the rules were changed last week to make it compulsory for masks to be worn if people were out in public. A quick errand run to Half Way Tree offered a chance to see how that’s going between home and the busiest place in the Corporate Area.
Mixed at best would be the verdict–about halfway applied, as befits the spot. As many wore masks as did not. Of concern was the attitude and display of disregard by PPV drivers, many of whom were unmasked with passengers, some masked, some not.
Some police were out in force and masked and where they were PPV drivers were more disciplined, perhaps fearing swift reprimand or prosecution.
People were a mishmash of compliance, partial or total or not at all.
The scenes in HWT were much as I saw in uptown Barbican, where vendors were lax or compliant, while most customers going to an ATM or the supermarket or vendor wore masks.
Perhaps the most troubling scene was a group of four young people who’d just bought lunch from a nearby fast food outlet. They were in animated conversations on the sidewalk, quite close to each other. One had her mask in one hand, the other holding her food; one young man had no mask; two others had on masks around their necks so that they could talk more freely. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
What we should be seeing increasingly is people who are aware and applying health safety behaviour shunning over getting far from those who do not. This may not happen in all situations and it depends on people’s risk aversion, but it ought to be the trend. So, ideally, the unmasked taxi driver or vendor should see demand for their business fall, other things being equal. Jamaicans have some high risk tolerances in general, so I’m not holding my breath, but it’s worth pondering if we see signs of that.