#COVID19Chronicles-360: March 31- 2021-Lenten reflections 42-Vaccination rollout stalling?

Jamaica is facing the risk of its COVID vaccination programme being derailed early on as supply uncertainties loom large. However, it seems that more vaccines are being secured through April.

Meanwhile, a second weekend of vaccination blitzes will happen on April 3 and MPs are being enrolled to help get more over-75s to show up:

#COVID19Chronicles-359: March 30, 2021-Lenten reflections 41-Getting justice for George Floyd

The trial of Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd began yesterday. It will be harrowing and also complicated, He is accused of both manslaughter and murder of George Floyd:

What I saw of the events, before, were harrowing and I have no wish for any repeat viewing. The trial is being shown live on TV.

Disaster Risk Management Order No. 4, 2021 – Dated March 23, 2021 (& Amendment to Order No. 3)

The Gazette of Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 4) Order, 2021 containing the measures announced by Prime Minister Holness last …

Disaster Risk Management Order No. 4, 2021 – Dated March 23, 2021 (& Amendment to Order No. 3)

#COVID19Chronicles-358: March 29, 2021-Lenten reflections 40-Lockdown starts and ENDS begins

Kingston and St Andrew parishes were ghost towns on Palm Sunday as Jamaicans tasted the first of three weekends of curfews and lockdown:

We had to make an airport run, so saw the eerily empty roads, first hand.

The picture was similar across the island, according to most reports. This was a clear indication that most people are capable of abiding by strict restrictions. That said, we saw a few people wandering around on foot and it’s quite possible that inside neighbourhoods activities were going on, in contravention of the curfew.

Police were evident as we drove, but they seemed to patrolling more than stopping vehicles, mainly taxis (presumably plying legitimate runs consistent with curfew rules).

The government launched this weekend, in a pilot in Portmore, St. Catherine, its ENDS application to facilitate certain vendors serve customers using online ordering: allowing ‘services and delivery operations registered on the platform to carry out their usual commercial activities during curfew hours until midnight.’

Feedback seems to have been positive.

#COVID19Chronicles-357: March 28, 2021-Lenten reflections 39-Vaccine blitz rollout

The vaccine blitz was a success:
Over 91% of those registered got vaccinated, over 61% of the target of 1000:

#COVID19Chronicles-356: March 27, 2021-Lenten reflections 38-Vaccination blitz coming

Health and wellness minister Tufton’s COVID conversation yesterday focused on vaccination progress and the blitz planned for today. A replay is below:

Details are in the following thread:

Broadly, doses are being given on target, with over 30,000 given, and the focus on those over 75 will continue into next week.

#COVID19Chronicles-355: March 26, 2021-Lenten reflections 37-Jamaica and Caribbean countries’ vaccination supply woes

Jamaica is struggling to get vaccines procured and meet it stated targets, as supplies are coming in slower and lower than earlier promised. But new supplies are on order, including 1 million doses of the single dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, which could significantly change the vaccination process:

But, health and wellness minister Tufton confirmed it’s still on track to get AstraZeneca doses by early April:

Vaccinations are going well as over 26,000 Jamaicans have had their first dose; over 90% of target been met for first two weeks:

Caribbean countries, in general, are also struggling as the COVAX ‘life line’ seems shredded; only Jamaica received supplies so far from this source:

India has suspended temporarily exports of AstraZeneca vaccines, as local cases surge, though committing to meeting its supply commitments:

Countries are asking for donations, and pressing the WHO on the matter:

Meanwhile EU countries are fighting over AZ exports:

In his first press conference, president Biden raised the US target from 100 million vaccines in 100 days (recently met) to 200 million:

How the have and have nots live!

#COVID19Chronicles-354: March 25, 2021-Lenten reflections 36-Politicians changing their spots because of COVID mistakes?

Angela Merkel will be stepping down as Chancellor of Germany later this year; she announced in 2018 she would not seek a 5th term:

That perhaps gives her a freedom of action that comes from not needing to worry about seeking re-election. So, it is interesting that she took a strong step yesterday in reversing an Easter-period 5-day lockdown plan announced just the day before (Easter is usually a 3-day holiday). More importantly, she said the reversal was a “mistake” and fully hers.

Merkel said it couldn’t be implemented well in the short period before it was to take effect. She added that there were too many unresolved questions about lost wages at shops and companies.

Germany has floundered with its management of the pandemic, with vaccinations running very slowly, struggling to reach 10% of the population:

So, German public confidence is low, with a leader whose reputation had been built on crisis management. Add to that the now-familiar public fatigue with COVID restrictions.

Just this week, Jamaica’s PM announced a series of tighter measures to address a significant surge in COVID cases, which includes a lock down during most of the Easter holiday period. Concerns about this idea have been raised, not least because it’s not clear that lockdowns are really going to address the surge significantly, but also whether the actions are coherent and well-thought out. I’m not sure that the idea of retracting the plan is circulating around Cabinet, nor the idea that the PM would stand up and say he made a mistake.

But, politicians accepting their mistakes about COVID policy are worth noting, a year on from the start of the pandemic.

It’s been part of the news from the UK, this week, where PM Boris Johnson stated he regrets his actions at the onset of the pandemic.

“I think in retrospect, there are probably many things that we wish that we’d known and many things that we wish we’d done differently at the time.”

Politicians are not usually ready to step up and accept blame, but the pandemic has given many the chance to make mistakes often over a short period. It could be a trend starting?

#COVID19Chronicles-353: March 24, 2021-Lenten reflections 37-Closing budget debate

Dr. Nigel Clarke wrapped up the set piece debates, yesterday:

The following thread covers the main points:

He took the Opposition to task, claiming that key parts of their arguments were based on errors, especially on health spending during the pandemic (eg citing spending of J$150 million versus $4 billion on Compassionate Grants), but in general understating the fiscal response to the pandemic.

He also challenged their presentation on food poverty and food prices.

He was unable to avoid the temptation of a bit of theatre and brought a mini glass house to make his points about stones thrown in the wrong places, including regarding exchange rate depreciation and dividends from the Bank of Jamaica.

He tossed in (no pun) several cricket jokes about his adversaries as he took to the task. I’m sure his mathematical side couldn’t believe his luck at have numbers to use as trip wires.

#COVID19Chronicles-352: March 23, 2021-Lenten reflections 36-Thoughts on perplexing Jamaican policies to deal with COVID

Jamaica’s gone through a year with the COVID pandemic and I’m now at a loss to understand what policy is driving the official approach to addressing it. Yesterday, the prime minister announced that Jamaica will undergo three weekend lockdowns, that will span the traditional Easter holiday, in an attempt to stem the growth of Covid-19 cases.

Some simple conclusions, though, seem clear. It’s not a balanced approach; it’s about keeping domestic economic activity going. Tourism, which is really foreign activity that benefits us, we can’t control as the world seeks shelter in home countries.

We’ll see that economic focus in a lower than expected decline in GDP in fiscal year 2020-21, and the government may be overly optimistic in predicting growth in real GDP of 5 point 2 per cent for fiscal year 2021-2022. In the nerdy language of economists, the Government intends to run a primary surplus of 6 point 1 per cent of GDP in 2021-2022 and a fiscal surplus of 0 point 3 per cent of GDP during the fiscal year. This is ambitious. Some would argue that this strategy is too pro-cyclical for a country that is expected to see an 11 point 6 per cent reduction in GDP for 2020-2021. In other words, the government is pumping up activity more, which is possible by allowing more of the economy to function as normal.

We’ve lost less foreign exchange than expected because remittances have largely offset lower tourism revenue–we have been surprised by this resilience, but it’s well explained by Jamaican diaspora being forced to send money to the island which they previously were able to bring, personally; this foreign exchange story is consistent with the Jamaican dollar exchange rate not plummeting.

A greater proportion of people are still working than in many countries, although our unemployment rate is higher than before the pandemic.

It’s not balance because our health sector is in crisis–hospitalizations and deaths continue to mount. The Prime Minister says the nation has moved from 15-17 beds being occupied initially to now over 600.

Balance would’ve meant not allowing that to happen.

The government adopted a laissez-faire approach to many actions that are known to curb viral spread. (I really don’t understand that unless its belief is strong that civil disorder would occur.)

Global evidence is that few COVID restrictions bind without serious consequences.

The government has refused to compel, in a real sense, contagion prevention, even with some high profile examples of intolerance. (Images of police officers jovially chatting to people without masks is an egregious example. The better image is for them to be enforcing the rules.)

Real consequences seem draconian if people refuse to do what is reasonably expected of them; ‘personal responsibility’ is a hollow catch phrase in country renowned for showing little of it.

I’m generally a liberal so am not pro-police state measures. But, I strongly believe, You Are What You Tolerate. Every transgressor needs to understand it’s one strike only. It may be unpleasant to see or hear of what that means, but it’s a message that needs to be passed on fast.

Fines don’t work, not least because the government has a long history of amnesties. Asset seizures may send the right message. So may patrols in ALL areas, to show location or status don’t matter. I don’t understand why we don’t use technology like drones to identify transgressions like parties during curfew hours.

But, I also don’t understand why the government cannot say why it has not driven to be firmer and what it thinks will fail.

TIGHTER CURFEWS ARE NOT THE ANSWER to viral spread in Jamaica: we know from recent official surveys that most spread occurs in workspaces and public transport, yet have few or no measures to address that were announced, meaning we accept little change will occur. That seems dishonest . We’ll add frustration for little gain, is my estimation.

I’m happy to be proved wrong.