Coronavirus: What Trump could learn from Andrew Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness speaking to reporters while Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton listens.

In an address to the nation Friday night, Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared a national emergency was now in effect and did so in a statesmanlike, inclusive, mature and measured manner that saw his government looking to both contain and address this pandemic.

He told the nation to be cautious and take preventative measures using language that spelt out the dire consequences of the coronavirus while at the same time not inciting fear and panic.

Proactive and transparent

Holness was both proactive and transparent.

Displaying a united front, he allowed the Minister of Health to provide timely updates and inform the country as to how this virus entered the country and the persons who have contracted it.

Here Dr Tufton was on top of his brief, and it was clear that he is up to the task. The Chief Medical Officer outlined containment measures and the medical strategy taken to protect those not infected and care for those who are.

Thousands around the world have died from the novel coronavirus.

Take stock and reset for the future

Holness allowed the Attorney-General to give a fulsome report on the activation of the Emergency Power Act, The Public Health Act and the Disaster Risk Management Act and what that now means. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade made it clear what now applies to people travelling in and out of the country while the Minister of Science, Energy and Technology announced that the telecoms company had put in place measures to help citizens better communicate during this testing period.

The Minister of Local Government and Daryl Vaz were tasked with ensuring the country has adequate supplies of water, and the Minister of Tourism was also called upon to tell the country about the likely impact of this deadly virus. He assured the country that the industry would continue to see growth and although the cruise ships have ceased operating in Jamaica, there should be a rebound in July.

The Prime Minister was frank, using the opportunity to point out the country’s infrastructure deficiencies more so as it pertains to its water pipe network.

In a moment of perspicacity, he said this was a time for Jamaica to take stock and reset for the future. With eight cases of the virus now in the country but no recorded deaths, the government is making a concerted effort not to allow it to completely overwhelm Jamaica.

Stark contrast

His address to the country drew a stark contrast to that of the President of the United States who initially declared: ” It will go away just stay calm. It’s working out. And a lot of good things are going to happen.” Some have deemed that statement a tad flippant.

US President Donald Trump was tested for COVID-19 on Friday night.

When the first outbreak of the coronavirus came to the US., the President didn’t give the impression he was perturbed, but now with the virus infecting more than 2,400 people across all the states and 50 recorded deaths, it is now a real problem that the US should have got ahead of sooner.

There have been a number of missteps. Trump’s supporters have said that his enemies and detractors are weaponising the situation to spoil his chances at the upcoming presidential election in November. This is not a politically engineered situation – it is a deadly virus which is now a pandemic.

America’s medical facilities may well be overrun by coronavirus victims over the coming days with no plans yet put in place. Not to mention the President declared there are adequate test kits for everyone which is clearly not the case, and it is patently clear the country is not testing people to the degree that it should.

National emergency

Then there is the issue of placing a ban on Europe with the President saying that the continent has not sufficiently secured its borders thus allowing the coronavirus to proliferate there. He made an exception of the UK which as of today has seen the death toll doubling overnight to 21, with 1,140 people now infected there. So why the exception? It is interesting to note that the Jamaican government is closely monitoring UK visitors and has put travel restrictions in place concerning that country.

Today, President Trump drew the world’s attention to the rebound in the stock market saying, “biggest stock market rise in history yesterday”. Is that appropriate at this time? The market may well tank again on Monday or Tuesday.

While the President has declared a national emergency, he must be more tempered and judicious with his declarations and comments. These are turbulent times for all of humanity, and Andrew Holness’ address on Friday night was most informative, statesmanlike and struck the right tone in galvanising the country while being sanguine and forthright.

Kudos to you sir!