Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Garth Rattray | Please do better to fight COVID-19

Published:Monday | June 29, 2020 | 12:13 AM

I recently visited my favourite hardware store; so, you can imagine how happy and relieved I was when I saw two signs clearly posted at the entrance. ‘With efforts to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission… NO ONE WILL BE PERMITTED INSIDE THE HARDWARE WITHOUT A MASK COVERING THE NOSE AND MOUTH … thanks for your cooperation’; and, in bold red with an accompanying picture of a properly masked face, ‘NO ENTRY WITHOUT A MASK’.

But when I got inside there were no temperature checks, no place for hand sanitising, no physical distancing being practised and, worst of all, many staff members either had no masks on, masks being worn on the chin, over the mouth only, hanging from one ear, and one poor fellow had a hard plastic mask!

The customers had masks, but many either took them off completely, lowered them below their chin or shifted them every time that they spoke with anyone, which totally defeated the purpose of wearing them. I felt extremely vulnerable.

The second-to-last time that I visited there, I crossed swords with a bona fide ‘Jaggaba’. The crass, undisciplined lout skipped the line directly in front of me by capturing the space temporarily vacated by another customer.

My loud protestations fell on deaf ears as he defended his actions with the asinine excuse that he told me to move up. In spite of the furore, no staff member came to see what was going on and the cashier that he went to validated his bullyism by cashing him ahead of me. Consequently, when I got to a cashier, I inquired if they don’t take notice of what happens in the lines; her reply was a curt “No”. She was not wearing a mask, and when I tried to explain why it is important that she does, she retorted that I was protected because I was wearing one.


I explained that when she wears a mask, it traps particles exiting her mouth as she speaks. She told me that she was not speaking and interpreted my asking her about her mask as “picking on her”! On my most recent visit there, I saw the same cashier and she was barefaced again. My wife tried in vain to explain the need for her to wear a mask, but she ignored her also. There was no supervision of staff or customers; the signs at the entrance mean nothing. The free-for-all inside poses a health risk to everyone. Please, I request you, do better.

Sadly, I also noticed several other businesses with barefaced workers. In fact, most Jamaicans either do not wear masks or they wear them improperly. As for physical distancing … it’s very rarely practised anywhere. The Government has put a lot of thought, planning and effort into preventing or slowing the spread of this terrible plague, but it is making the monumental and dangerous mistake of leaving the necessary anti-COVID-19 measures up to individuals and businesses.

If COVID-19 spikes significantly, people will become sick, some will die, we will have to lock down the entire country, and the tourist industry will be blighted. Jamaica will become impoverished and a pariah for travellers, vacationers and investors.

We need roving health inspectors to closely monitor private and public institutions for compliance with anti-COVID-19 measures. We need them patrolling the streets to ensure that there is no crowding and that masks are always worn properly. Police vehicles should be blaring out the need for masks and physical distancing. We need to erect numerous banners/billboards and use existing video billboards to get the message across by constantly bombarding citizens with the need to comply. To do any less is not good enough. This virus means business, and so should we.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and