Jamaica has been fixated, since March 10, on the Cornavirus. It is largely due to the government’s response to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The Government has moved to partially shut down segments of the country as Jamaica battles the spread of the virus.
Also telling have been the reactions of the citizens who have so far adhered to the guidelines and amended legislation imposed by the government in order to curb the spread.
The fact is the COVID-19 virus poses a global threat. Responsible for more than 16,000 deaths across continents, the virus acts as a severe form of pneumonia that paralyzes the lungs.
And since Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, announced the first imported case of the virus during an emergency press briefing on the date aforementioned, the government – led by Prime Minister Andrew, has acted swiftly and decisively.
Despite the threat of COVID-19, crime and violence remains Jamaica’s biggest problem, with an annual murder rate exceeding the thousand mark.
During the period March 10 to March 26 over 20 Jamaicans have died as a result of gun violence compared to the solitary death caused by the virus.
For instance, 16 people were slain inside 48hours this past weekend. This latest spike in gun-related deaths has again drawn criticism from several political commentators demanding, for crime, the same level of urgency and priority from the government as for COVID-19 .
“The robust response of the government to the COVID-19 virus crisis has shown that the government has not done all that it could to cauterize the crime problem in Jamaica,” remarked Paul Ivey, an Associate Vice President at the University of Technology, Jamaica and author of the book ‘Jamaica: Paradise and Paradox’.
Ivey, who does most of his political commentary on popular social media site Facebook, said he believes that the contrasting approach to the threat of the virus and crime from many Jamaicans is a psychological one.
“It is a psychological issue related to risk perception, as well as the fact that is not partial to race, class or nationality – ghetto people and uptown people are at risk,” he added.
We spoke to a male member of the Central Committee of the Police Federation, in Jamaica Constabulary Force, in order to get the perspective of an active law enforcement agent on the matter.
The ranking officer, who requested anonymity, argued that the government was forced to respond in the way it has because of the economic threat the virus possesses, and the velocity in which it spreads.
He also said that if the government were to replicate such an approach to crime fighting, it would mean a similar drastic changes in Constitutional rights.
“If such a measure were to be taken regarding crime fighting it would alter the movements of citizens, but for it to be truly effective it would have to be coupled with targeted raids and detail searches for weapons,” he said.
Since the start of the year, more than 200 Jamaicans have lost their lives to gun violence.