‘A great storm, but we will overcome’: Governor-General instills hope in Jamaicans amid COVID-19 outbreak

Jamaica’s Governor-General Sir Partick Allen (Photo: JIS)

Governor-General of Jamaica Sir Patrick Allen, while lauding the efforts of authorities in containing the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) locally, is warning Jamaicans to brace for the eventuality of a widespread outbreak.

Allen, in an address to the nation on Thursday (March 26), said that things will get worse before they improve and called on citizens to follow the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Wellness in maintaining social distancing.

“Unfortunately, the situation may get worse before it gets better. Be prepared, be positive and be patient as we ride out this storm,” he said.

He thanked Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Tufton for their management of the crisis so far.

As the nation prepares to face the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming weeks, the Governor General urged Jamaicans to tap into that spirit of resilience and warmth, which the island’s people have always done in the face of great adversity.

“We are a smart and gifted people who believe in ourselves so let us use the best about us to fix what is wrong with us,” Sir Patrick emphasised.

See the Governor-General’s address to the nation in full below:

“For the past two weeks, our nation has been gripped by fear, panic, and uncertainty as the dreaded COVID-19 virus reached our shores.

I am using this opportunity to speak to you, not only as your Governor-General but as a husband, father, brother, friend, and concerned citizen.

Firstly, I thank the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health and Wellness and their team for the leadership and management of this crisis so far.

Their swift response contained the rapid spread of the disease in Jamaica. We recognise that this virus has no regard for religion, culture, occupation or financial status. It affects all strata of our society.  Let us not panic, rather let us be vigilant and support each other even when we cannot hug.

Because the virus has affected every continent, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it a pandemic on Wednesday, March 11.   We hear the struggles of health care workers, the need for personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, ventilators and hospital beds. People are dying and the infection rate increases daily.

As of March 24, in Jamaica, we have 25 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1 death. The spread of this disease is crippling businesses, closing borders and keeping billions of people confined at home around the world. We have never experienced anything like this in our lifetime.

We have enacted social distancing and have come to value certain household items we once took for granted.

Our Tourist Industry is badly affected. Many are now out of jobs. There are disruptions in production, in the supply chain, which are having, and will have negative impact financially. The economic gains which the country has made over the past years will be compromised.

•             It is critically important that everyone listens to the updates from the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Health and Wellness and their team.

•             The directives given are to be followed by everyone.

•             We have to adjust our lives, to save ourselves from being infected by this deadly virus and infecting others.

•             Our history has shown that when we come together as one, we achieve great results. Let us do it again.

•             Now more than ever “we” must mean all of us.

•             I join the Government in asking everyone to take the necessary precautions in your personal hygiene.

•             Please demonstrate at all times respect for the orders, especially those which apply to gatherings.

•             Stay healthy, stay safe, STAY HOME to stop the spread of the virus.

•             Families now have the opportunity to spend more time together and forge closer bonds. They can read, do puzzles, play and pray. Tell your children stories of your childhood and their heritage.

•             I want to thank our doctors, nurses, ancillary staff, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, ambulance drivers, X-ray technicians, volunteers and everyone in the health care system. You are on the forefront daily to care for our sick, may you and your family be protected from this deadly virus.

•             I thank members of the private sector and individuals who have pledged to help the government combat this crisis and provide the necessary support.

•             We thank the Cuban Government for the CADRE of health care professionals who have come to assist us in our moment of great need.

•             We thank the members of the security forces who selflessly work on the frontlines every day to ensure the safety of our citizens.

•             I commend our teachers who are conducting classes via various information and communication technology platforms. Your commitment is greatly appreciated.

•             Despite the stressors, some parents are rising to the challenge to home-school their children.

My fellow Jamaicans, do not panic and despair if your family or community members show symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. Please follow the guidelines that the government issued and get medical help for them immediately. Be positive at all times and report instances of hoarding or price gouging. Be your “brother’s keeper”.

Mark Twain said, “kindness is a language, the blind can see and the deaf can hear”.

Do not discriminate against our health care workers, support them in every way you can. Now is the time for unity, not hostility.

Unfortunately, the situation may get worse before it gets better. Be prepared, be positive and be patient as we ride out this storm. We are a smart and gifted people who believe in ourselves so let us use the best about us to fix what is wrong with us.

•             Let us pray for the healing and comfort of those affected by the COVID-19 virus.

•             Let us pray for those who take care of the sick and those who are worried, that Almighty God will be their protection, strength and rest. “He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of boldness and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Finally, let us wrap ourselves in the fabric of our nation and fight for its survival.

God bless you all, keep you safe and God bless Jamaica Land we love.”