Period of Despair!
I begin this week’s column by recognising that Wednesday, April 22, was the anniversary of the day John Horne left us. Too much can never be said about him, for to me he was a man among men, selfless, caring, and nationalistic. I have not met many like him. He loved his country and was always ready to show it off to visitors. One of his favourite places was the Dark View waterfalls, with the Montreal Gardens always on his agenda. He left an impression not only on persons here but those in every country that he has worked. That was the nature of the man. His passing is still deeply felt.
It is difficult writing anything that does not relate to this period of despair, uncertainty and fear that prevail at this time. There is so much that is being said, so much information floating around, some questionable, some deliberately fake and some coming from those who claim scholarship and authenticity in the particular areas in focus.
We pick up dubious material which we pass around without any critical examination. I say all of this to make the point that in this ‘summer of discontent’ information from legitimate sources is needed regularly. Press conferences are in short supply, but perhaps better so because of the manner in which they are done. I was granted extended time to complete my column hoping that some of my concerns would have been addressed. We heard from the Minister of Health with the CMO’s role being to answer questions from journalists assembled. The PM arrived late. The first journalist posed a question about use of mask which was answered by the CMO, I believe. A second question with reference to a collective approach hinting at the role of CARICOM, which he said the PM might want to answer. After the question on masking was answered our PM took over and his answer went on for a long time where he threaded on a number of other matters, including the use of masks, which should really have been left to health personnel, if there was need for further explanation.
He said that he asked the Ministry to provide information related to the wearing of masks and to the education about it, but at the same time spent some time giving his own views, which had to do with the difficulty of wearing masks in hot weather and argued that they would have to continue wearing them for the day. We know now that some countries are making the wearing of masks in public, mandatory, so a more detailed response from Health personnel might have been useful. Unfortunately, the PM took such a long time answering that question and one later asked by Kenton Chance that I had to close off for fear of not meeting my deadline.
There were a number of concerns I had, one related to the guidelines given to principals about the reopening of schools, another about the role of NEMO, since recently the government releases seem to be coming from NEMO. The CMO said that the wearing of masks remained an option, but pointed to areas where there might be crowds or where physical distancing was not possible, suggesting that it might be best then to wear masks. It seems to me that this applies particularly to the minivans. Should Government not regulate that all passengers, drivers, and operators wear masks in the minivans, as the CMO seems to be suggesting?
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian