I can’t see how the government won’t come heavy with COVID restrictions after the elections on September 3. Its unwillingness to enforce clearly or inability to convince everyone that self responsibility was not a licence to just not bother is coming to haunt it. That some places of entertainment repeatedly broke protocols and high profile people felt their disregard for the risks was no big thing and that this could go on in full view tells us a lot. The examples set during the campaign that had widespread disregard for the same health protocols we are being urged to follow has left many confused and bewildered about whether the government is ‘all talk and no action’. Now, with curfew hours lengthened, we’re hearing of, or seeing, curfew breaking tells us that the concerns are yet high enough for all to fear.
The most recent messages we’ve gotten from the PM and minister of health and wellness stress no need for panic. But, people often panic once you tell them not to if they feel risks are getting out of hand.
The surge in COVID19 cases this month have produced a series of triple digit daily increases, new daily highs, including 245 yesterday. That will give many a sense that the pandemic is all around, especially those who casually thought that several weeks ago all was settled at much lower levels.
Having called the election, it’s now a period of holding breath to get to that date, in the mind of the government. The second guessing of the decision will go on but that’s fine. Right now, the big political unknown is how the surge will affect voting.
With the apparent indifference to health risks we’re seeing comes a political risk that makes Thursday now a day whose significance is raised several notches.
Candidates, in general, will be worried that mobilizing voters has not been easy, given general concerns about health protocols and campaigning in the traditional Jamaican way. Ruling party candidates, in particular, should be feeling more anxious about that because the election is theirs to lose. They risk losing power but also risk losing from a position that looked unassailable, if polls are to be believed. However, each day raises the level of unusualness in this election season.
Concerns about voter turnout should be high and getting higher as uncertainty swirls around whether fear will keep many away and if certain electors won’t get to vote—namely, those in isolation or quarantine. The numbers involved in the latter case may be small but the principle is big.
Not everyone crawls over the daily updates or understands what the various numbers mean. What they will be noticing is that many organizations are reporting cases amongst their staff and establishments are closing for ‘deep cleaning’. Again, that should convince more people that the virus may be everywhere and spreading.