Governor General Sir Patrick Allen says Jamaica should become accustomed to the new way of life ushered in by the coronavirus, which has sent millions of jobs around the world into homes and others into virtual spaces.
Sir Patrick, in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Gleaner, said that even with the pandemic reaching the island, the office of the head of state continues to carry out its full operation, including administrative functions, swearing-in for judges, and handling a flurry of gazettes announcing orders for curfews, quarantine and localised states of emergency.
“Most of the work that I do is done inside, behind closed doors. So the documents still come from the Office of the Prime Minister; the Services Commission, the Judicial Services Commission, the Public Service Commission. My work hours have not been lessened as a result of the crisis,” disclosed Sir Patrick, who represents the head of state, Queen Elizabeth, in the island.
He said the office continues to function efficiently in discharging its constitutional, legislative and ceremonial duties in keeping with the rules and protocols. Ceremonial activities are now being done virtually, but social activities have taken a hit, with visits to the office, which occurred five days per week, have been cancelled in light of the pandemic.
The Governor General’s I Believe initiative, which helps students in tertiary institutions, has also been shelved for this year.
Offering a glimpse into what he sees as the post-COVID-19 world, the governor general said some changes should become standard ways of life.
“Our social behaviours and interactions should be better through this experience. We, hopefully, will be a kinder and more gentler society, because this experience pulls all of these qualities out of us, so I do not see why we should revert to those things,” Sir Patrick said.
MORE EFFICIENT SOCIETY
“After COVID, we will become a more efficient society and especially [in] the service industry.
“Someone also said what about the generations born after COVID-19, their reality will be different, but the singlemost important thing is the work that will be required to reconstruct the economy. Everyone will have to play a part,” His Excellency pointed out.
The country’s economic recovery programme will be critical, he said.
Sir Patrick called on Jamaicans to exercise tolerance, especially those operating in tight spaces, telling them the viral pandemic will not last forever.
While admitting that the close quarters for extended periods can lead to negative behaviours, he said there were also many positives to be derived.
The devout Adventist said weekly Friday evening vespers – a service of evening prayers – which often included himself and his wife, Lady Allen, were now large family gatherings – albeit virtually.
“I don’t know why we didn’t think of it before. Now we are praying with family in the United States and Jamaica. Now we are in virtual worship and it means so much to them. It has been a time of deeper bonding and has transformed our relationships,” said Sir Patrick.
He urged families to make the best of a bad situation, telling them they should try and surmount the challenges rather than be overcome by them.
Faith, he pointed out, is very important, especially at this time, and many Jamaicans have held on to a faith in a higher power for better.
Citing his own early life in rural Jamaica, he said life was hard and even though books were hard to come by, his parents stressed the importance of books and higher education.
“I went from my rural community to college, and then to university and went further because I was told to believe. I completed, undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate degrees, and I heard that once you are qualified, that the sky is the limit. So I urge all Jamaicans to do your best and trust that others will help you along the way. And do not plateau anywhere. There is always better,” he said, offering words of encouragement.