Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, says that as the country learns to live with COVID-19, the Government, through the Health Ministry, is seeking to engender a sense of personal responsibility among the population.
This, she said, will be a key component in the country fighting the disease as a unit, pointing out that working together yields better results than if people seek to protect only themselves and their own families.
“Every single citizen of the country becomes an enforcement officer to ensure that people will stay within where they are supposed to be,” she told a recent JIS ‘Think Tank’, in reference to persons in quarantine and isolation.
The CMO said this would have to be balanced as the Ministry of Health and Wellness continues to remind persons to refrain from any form of discrimination against persons who are suspected or infected with the virus.
She said it is important that if persons recognise that there is such a person within their community, that their actions will keep everyone safe, not just those who are directly affected but also their families and the community.
“At the same time you have to be trying not to stigmatise them and make them feel bad or feel threatened,” she said, adding that most persons have no control over being infected.
The CMO pointed out that some persons who have the infection will not have any symptoms and also that an infected person’s symptoms can vary, depending on the environment they are in.
“I could be coughing and sneezing in one room and move into the next room and I am not coughing or sneezing, but I am still breathing out particles. The particles are there in the space around me or may drop on surfaces that you may touch and contaminate yourself,” she explained.
She argued that community members can do a lot to help persons to recover quickly from the illness.
“It is in everybody’s interest that those who are ill get well soon, so community members must try and offer support,” the CMO said.
She appealed to persons to extend a helping hand to persons who may be in quarantine or isolation, such as assisting them to get groceries or medication.
The CMO pointed out that being in quarantine for 14 days is very difficult for some persons and that in order to preserve their mental health, persons can assist by staying in touch by phone, so that they don’t feel depressed.
She warned that stigmatising persons and threatening them are not helpful activities and pointed out that it will cause persons to be afraid to declare their status or not report, in which case the possibility of spread is even greater.