I often say that Jamaicans are not wantonly indisciplined; they’re totally rational: they do not let rules that don’t bind, bind them. Put differently, if a cost will not be imposed for the undesirable behaviour, who in their right mind would impose the cost on themself? So, now, Jamaica gets to see what that meets with full force.
If we have learned nothing during the pandemic, it’s that no amount of opining about risks and safety protocols matters much if the rules have no teeth.
Perhaps the most-glaring example so far have been the holding of prohibited parties by Reggae Mill Restaurant right in the face of the JCF and the government. After a few weeks of doing this, and one presumes a good pocket full of wonga in the process, they were forced to shut down for a couple of weeks and their entertainment licence pulled. I haven’t seen their accounts, but it’s quite possible they did better with these infractions than their rivals, so are better off, as and when life gets back to normal. Huffing and puffing about their irresponsbility and lack of consideration for their law-abiding retail neighbours at Devon House was like water off a duck’s back.
We have the many anecdotal reports of mass gatherings at rivers and beaches.
Now, we have the onset of the general election campaign. Within moments of another exhortation to be good children, there was the PM pushing his head out of the top of an SUV and waving his V sign for all to see in a road rally. Oh, yes, he also told people to don masks and even had some to hand out.
But, the prevailing images were that crowds are great for politics and let’s run with it. ‘COVID still a keep, but it nah ketch we…yet.’ Well, the politicians who went to the beach party may be lucky to find their tests come back negative.
As the election is now underway, I think I see some method in what many may feel is madness in the decision to hold the election on September 3.
The resources needed to force Jamaicans to comply totally with the health protocols just don’t exist, except in mind of some with fantasies. The likely best expectation is compliance by over half of the population. Many people who are sensible are following the protocols and likely staying home as much as possible. Those who are more likely not following the protocols haven’t done so much from the get-go, and with the election atmosphere in Jamaica usually a frenzy, they are unlikely to change much. However, it’s worth imploring them and offering them masks and accepting that half of them wont wear them properly. These people are risk takers and the best expectation is that they will keep their behaviour to within their neighbourhoods. The fact that many neighbourhoods will do the same is a real problem, however. But, the country has actually show a remarkable high resilience with a recovery rate between 70-80% so we may just be at the better end of susceptibilities. But, we need to monitor what the data show and be ready to drop the hammer if the real danger signals flash red, in terms of daily increases, active cases, and hospitalization. Finally, the threshold for lock down is always there as a ceiling and if that is nearly breached, then lock down will come as soon as possible after the voting.