History is about Memory
I was having a conversation with someone the other day about the COVID-19 spread in Jamaica. I shared with her my questions about how coincidental it was that the areas identified to be quarantined were the communities of 7 and 8 miles Bull Bay and Corn Piece in Clarendon. 7 and 8 miles Bull Bay is represented by the wife of Prime Minister of Jamaica and Corn Piece was in the news recently for a by-election won by the son of the speaker of the House of Representatives. Are you saying this is a “politically motivated thing”? She questioned back. She wasn’t convinced about the connections i had made and concluded that my argument was not “sound”. I was shocked by the suggestion but i started to think more about why this connection was so apparent to me.
Then I remembered learning about the SARS outbreak of 2003 while I was doing some research on Hong Kong/China Relations. The story goes the outbreak started in Hong Kong after a Professor from Southern China visited for a family wedding. While staying in a hotel the professor became ill and checked himself into a hospital. He died soon after but not before infecting, persons who were staying at the hotel and who would later travel to Singapore, Canada and other parts of the world and start the spread there. That information made me look for connections once I heard about the spread of the COVID-19 virus because I knew similar outbreaks had happened before. Later in 2012 we would experience MERS (Middle East Respitory Syndrome which was first reported in Saudi Arabia. SARS (SARS-COV), MERS(MERS-COV) and Corona virus (COVID-19) have a history we must revisit.
Will we remember this time?
Life and death in Jamaica also has a history. Just two years ago, in 2018, Jamaicans, especially children were dying from a “Dengue like” outbreak. The Ministry of Health and Wellness reluctantly declared the situation an “epidemic ” in 2019, one year after several reports of deaths with dengue claiming that the number of deaths did not reach “the epidemic threshold”. The situation became confused in terminology of suspected, presumed, or confirmed cases . What is the difference between Dengue and COVID-19? COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health organization on March 11 2020. A pandemic is declared when there is a virus infecting populations across several countries at the same time. The Dengue outbreak was specific to Jamaica and therefore considered an epidemic or a local outbreak. Now, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has regular press conferences to update the country on the COVID-19 situation and some of us are already confused by the report on the number of cases in Jamaica and the charts showing projected infection rates using modeling data. Many more people will die during this time. Jamaica doesn’t have a history of being adequately prepared through a health care system or otherwise to preserve lives.
Why don’t we remember the time before?
To manage the COVID-19 pandemic we are now required to stay home and away from people. This is a new rhythm that many will have to adjust to. Lock downs or restriction of movement must already be having a negative effect on some Jamaicans daily routine. As a measure to control the rising crime rates in Jamaica, a total of 8 states of emergencies across 7 parishes have been declared on the island between January 18, 2018 and January 20, 2020. Jamaicans have no idea when this will end . Added to this is COVID-19. This morning I went for a walk up the road. I was surprised to see the trees cut down. The place looked different from the last time I saw it and i have no idea when it changed. As I walked further I wondered how the lack of stimulation from staying home for extended periods will affect peoples memory or perception of time. We are creating future memory problems without thinking about it.