Jamaicans should expect new norms in society long after the dust is settled on the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) according to Dr. Kai A. D. Morgan, President of Jamaican Psychological Society.
The Wuhan-born virus has so far influenced massive operational changes in healthcare, politics, business, education, entertainment, sports etc; and these are some of the main areas of people activity.
But just as in 1918 and 2001, when most of the world went into shock, there will be residual effect in the aftermath of a global crisis.
In an exclusive interview with Jamaica Today via telephone, the mind expert said the current changes were inevitable and some will remain permanent.
“I don’t even know where to start, the psycho-social issues since March 10 (when the health minister first addressed the nation) that have come to us are enormous,” Dr. Morgan said.
He added that “the levels of anxieties are rising. The fear of catching the virus, fear for loved ones. We already had people who were struggling with mental health issues, so this period is a very unfortunate one.”
Pandemics And World Crisis Changes The Way We Live In Society
Close to three thousand people were killed on September 11, 2001 when planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers.
Traveling was never the same thereafter.
The incident influenced the implementation of tighter security measures at airports around the globe, some of which stripped constitutional rights from would-be passengers.
The Spanish Flu is the second largest pandemic the world has ever seen. Estimation varies from 17.4 to 50 million in death toll after three deadly waves swept the globe between 1918 -1919.
It left many people disillusioned.
As a result of this, there was a move to better disease surveillance, better public health and more organized collection of healthcare data, because countries saw that to prevent future pandemics they needed to turn towards science.
New York City-based psychologist and licensed mental health counselor, Roxanne Richards, believes covid-19 has had a similar psychological impact on the world, as the two aforementioned, but believes human’s ability to adapt and evolve will come up trumps.
“Similarly to 9/11 people had to deal with the effects of trauma; living with the memories of loss of lives and fear of the unknown,” remarked Richards via a WhatsApp interview.
For the past decade, Microsoft’s billionaire founder Bill Gates has been warning about the lack of preparation and systems in place to deal with infectious disease threats that could lead to a pandemic.
Everyone in this world has now seen how a new microbe like a virus or even an old microbe that suddenly has gotten more gusto can unexpectedly emerge and spread quickly.
This recently happened during the 2002 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreaks and the 2016 Zika outbreaks.
All of these were all basically prequels to this current pandemic. The sort of harbingers one gets before a heart attack or before a divorce.
The reality is that covid-19 has sped up the way we observe health in our environment. People will become more conscious about their well-being; where they sit, whose hands they shake, they are more mindful of coughing and sneezing in public spaces. Things that would appear to have been second nature.
But world leaders are responding. On June 4, at the Global Vaccine Summit to be held in the United Kingdom (UK), Gates and UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson hope to raise at least a further six billion pounds for a vaccine.
The idea of a vaccine to combat the virus has received mixed reactions, but scientists believe without a vaccine it will take far longer for humans to reach collective immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The virus is proving to be a massive social stress test for us. It is as if the world is in the midst of a large-scale social experiment.
The enforced changes are both minor and major; children are being kept away from their peers and entire companies are working from home.
Morgan, who obtained both her masters and doctorate at the Miami Institute of Psychology, said it will be a challenge for a lot of Jamaicans to adjust to these changes in society.
“It has already been a challenge for the government to keep things under control, because a lot our thinking is short term. Many of our people are unable to look pass next week. The Prime Minister keep talking about behavioural change and that is psychology,” she said.
Managing The Anxieties At The Executive Level Is Critical For Governments.
The widespread panic that swirled over our shores after health minister Dr Christopher Tufton announced the first (imported) case of the virus on March 10, meant that going forward the government needed to carefully manage the hysteria.
In April, the health minister agreed to an Instagram live interview with popular female dancehall artiste Spice to discuss covid-19. It was a move, Dr. Morgan said, that gave the government a unique opportunity to reach more Jamaicans.
“That conversation with Spice was a great move because it would have reached a different audience and have the right impact. Balancing is important and we have many different sub cultures so it was a brilliant move,” she said.
Though Jamaica didn’t go into full lockdown, the government still had to enforce certain restrictions against institutions that foster public gatherings. Schools were ordered closed, as well as churches and bars. Curfews were then implemented to limit the movements of Jamaicans.
“I think for us we were luckier than other places that have gone full lockdown. We have had some flexibility. Still there are people who, accustomed to be free and being unable to move about the usual way would have been difficult for them,” Dr. Morgan added.
But on an executive level, covid-19 has forced key government ministries into more spending especially in the area of employment and philanthropy.
The latter has given a lot of Jamaicans renewed confirmation that the government can do more for its citizens.
“During a crisis, good decision making at the executive level is critical,” Dr. Morgan further argues.
The government, led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, has tried to be strategic in its approach. They have blundered on a few occasions, with allowing call centers to be operational during the work-from-home period the most notable.
That decision pushed the number of confirmed covid-19 cases upwards significantly.
Creativity Is Key To Survive Covid-19 Restrictions & Its Residual Effects.
“People are now moving online and that is what is required, utilizing your creativity,” said Dr. Morgan, when asked to comment on the digital frame covid restrictions have enforced.
Teaching, as we know it from the classroom, has now gone virtual and will remain that way for more months to come. This is the single biggest change that the virus has enforced aside from healthcare, and it forms the blueprint for other sectors too.
The creative hands in the entrepreneurial world have so far benefitted from this period.
For Yvette Davis, who owns and operate a London-based printing and embroidery company Appah_Rel, her business has seen a sharp increase in sales since she started designing masks.
“I started making and designing masks in the second or third of the UK lockdown and since then I have seen at least a 90 per cent increase in my business in terms of sales and production,” said the Londoner whose parents are Jamaicans.
In March, the Government announced a JA$25 billion stimulus package, the largest fiscal stimulus in Jamaica’s history. The unprecedented spread of covid-19 have had an adverse effect on economies globally.
Economist and Senator Dr Andre’ Haughton, says the Government’s covid-19 care packages will not be sufficient to address the fallout from the pandemic, which has set the country back further economically.
“It will have implications for the output and people’s standard of living. Our GDP will fall by 5 per cent, it is going to have budgetary implications for the gov’t because whenever you cannot collect tax you cannot spend,” Senator Haughton told Jamaica Today.
He added: “You will have to implement a supply policy to combat that five per cent negative that will come from the shock.”
Any moment that shakes history is experienced first by the living, in deep personal terms. The recovery process will be slow and tedious.
“In the short term we will really have to cope day by day, especially when it comes to the cultural norms and work with what we have at the moment. Find support online whether it is from a coach, a psychologist etc. Parents and teachers are going to have to be more disciplined to ensure learning, and we will have to be more creative to mitigate the economic downfall,” Dr Morgan said.