Thirty-five per cent of Jamaicans polled early last month had identified the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as the second-most pressing problem facing the country behind crime and violence.
At the same time, a combined 60 per cent of respondents expressed some amount of concern about the virus and what it would do to Jamaica, while just under 40 per cent of those questioned said they were not worried.
Pollster Bill Johnson collated the data in an all-island survey commissioned by the Jamaica Observer just after the country reported its first imported case of COVID-19 on March 10.
Johnson and his team of researchers went into the field March 12-15 using a sample size of 1,200 respondents. The poll, Johnson pointed out, has a sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent.
When the pollsters asked what was the most pressing problem facing Jamaica at this time, 43 per cent said crime and violence, 35 per cent identified the coronavirus, while 15 per cent said unemployment.
When people were asked to say how worried they were about the coronavirus and what it may do to Jamaica, 39 per cent said they were “not really worried”, 37 per cent said they were “very worried”, while 23 per cent admitted that they were “somewhat worried”.
More than half of respondents — 54 per cent — said the COVID-19 outbreak had made no change in their lifestyle.
At that time, the Government had received high ratings from the public for its handling of the crisis, as when the pollsters asked those surveyed to rate the job the Government had been doing to protect people and the economy from the effects of the coronavirus, 32 per cent gave the Administration a “pretty good” rating, 22 per cent said “excellent”, 20 per cent thought it was “only fair”, while 19 per cent said “poor”, and seven per cent said they were “not sure”.
That bounce carried into March 17 when the World Health Organization (WHO) and America’s top diplomat in the island, Ambassador Donald Tapia, gave the Government kudos for its COVID-19 response.
“Thank you so much for your leadership — and preparedness — for #COVID19, @christufton. #Jamaica. Being ready for #coronavirus is key to pushing it back fast. Together, for a safer world!,” WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus posted on Twitter.
Equally, Ambassador Tapia said in a tweet: “We want to congratulate the GoJ and the MoHW for its timely reporting of COVID-19 cases and aggressive containment strategy. The MoHW (Ministry of Health and Wellness) has shown that one of the best defenses is appropriate public sensitization on preventative methods and the importance of early case recognition.”
However, over the past two weeks, the Government has been taking a lot of flak for some of its decisions, first its failure to permit 45 Jamaicans aboard the Marella Discovery 2 cruise ship to disembark while the vessel was being refuelled in Jamaica’s territorial waters; and the shopping hours allotted to residents of St Catherine, which is now under a seven-day lockdown.
Additionally, some critics have hauled the Government over the coals after the dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases, from 73 to 163 in four days, and the fact that the majority of cases were found among employees at business process outsourcing company Alorica in Portmore, St Catherine.
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