“Journeys usually have a beginning and an end. Some journeys are planned, some are thrust upon us. Some journeys are physical, some are emotional. In some cases, we don’t even realize that a journey has begun, hence we have no idea how or when it will end”
I am quoting from myself in my soon-to-be-published book, CHAPTERS OF YOUR LIFE. Journeys also have many interesting detours.
Such is the pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) which arrived in Jamaica in March 2020 and has since been on a frolic of its own, disrupting our lives and livelihood, and taking us on an unplanned journey. It is now almost 24 months since the journey began and with no end in sight.
What is clear, however, is that the virus will not change, except for periodic mutations, so we, the people, have to. That is to change our ways and embrace infection prevention and control measures. We cannot afford to go on a frolic with the virus and those who think they can, the virus says game on and responds with wider spread of COVID-19 by one more variant of infection than the other.
As we recognise that the virus-initiated journey progresses; each of us must respond to the challenge of coping on the journey.
We have to devise measures to protect and safeguard ourselves by setting goals and prepare a roadmap, we may even include having to change or transform ourselves and take control of what we can. There will be things we cannot control which become the role of the state, and in this regard, we are seeing these play out in the form of changing regulatory edicts, protocols, and guidelines.
We see rolling restrictions on our freedoms for our own good, in particular curfews and no movement days, and at this time, vaccines continue to be hotly debated—to take or not to take, to be compulsory or not. The debate rages on with anti-vaxxers not only protesting but now filing lawsuits against employers and state agencies locally and internationally.
In the context of this so-called journey with the novel coronavirus, we see the daily reported statistics on the impact of the frolic of the virus among the population.
The daily fluctuation is based on the number of tests done in the public sector. Some days there are test results from private laboratories, but it is believed these are related to preparation for travelling rather than for contact tracing. As you follow the daily updates on the MOHW (Ministry of Health and Wellness) website and the media, the examples of wide swings in the daily statistics are indicative of the journey we have been on with the viral infection rates, and which relate directly to the frolic between the virus and us the citizens.
But during this journey, we can also learn and find meaning, although some will succumb to losing control which can lead to behaviours that can even be destructive. We are being informed by reports from the health sector that COVID-19 has fast become the disease of the unvaccinated.
We have heard of houses divided—adult vaxxers and anti-vaxxers—where children who need protection are caught in the middle, where parental consent is required for them to be vaccinated in order to facilitate face to face teaching and learning.
The journey, therefore, should be guided by facts and not fear. This makes the case for following science and medical advice. There is always the opportunity to learn and grow. Firstly, there is a whole new vocabulary, and some not so new but not usually used during our daily conversations at home, at work, in training and education and at worship and play.
We must seek to learn measures to protect ourselves, our families, and communities such by slavishly adhering to protocols, for example, wearing masks, sanitising, social distancing; following policies and procedures at the workplace, avoiding crowds, staying home as much as possible and most importantly, taking the vaccine when it is your time, pending access and availability which have significantly improved over time.
And what of faith, beliefs, and trust?
These have been upended by ignorance and rebellion caused by misinformation from social media and other forms of communication, some from dark places. The poisoning of the mind and our understanding is hard to correct and reverse but try we must by any means including conversations, counselling, and public education, and much as I don’t support some forms of incentive and coercion, I am good with moral suasion as we have to pursue whatever means that will work.
We must be careful who are the messengers and their messaging. There are influencers among co-workers, educators, political, religious, and cultural figures, and of course, mentors. We must ensure the reluctance to listen and be informed are for the right reasons and from the right sources: Respect is due if one does not read and understand but is willing to learn. Corruption of the mind with misinformation is hard to be reversed.
The journey’s end is in sight with the rollout of the vaccine and now with boosters recommended but is of no use if not taken. We don’t know what is beyond the vaccine but at least it is slowing the spread of the Delta virus, but the emergence of the mutation called Omicron we are still learning of its transmissibility. What is sure, as the saying goes, “plan for the worst, hope for the best.”
Getting vaccinated is the best we have so far on the COVID journey. Combined with wearing masks, hand sanitising, social distancing, avoiding crowds and taking care of your health and well being as the journey progresses; to ending the pandemic. When all else appears to be failing while we are on the journey, there is the need to be guided by one’s personal roadmap to coexist with coronavirus.
The whole world is on the coronavirus pandemic journey together, so sharing experiences will prepare us for the next one which we have no idea of what, where and when that will be but what is certain is the journey is in full swing and we are on it together.
At the time of writing, it appears that the infection rate from Omricon has peaked, hence beginning to trend downward, but already there is talk of new strains which have begun appearing. Happily, at the same time there are reports of approval of new treatment regimens, and approval of vaccines from emergency to regular use in adults while requests for emergency use for children and infants are underway, hence the journey continues.
Audrey Hinchcliffe is CEO and founder of Manpower and Maintenance Services Limited Group. Email comments and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org.