Fears spread at Central Sorting office over packages from China

Fears spread at Central Sorting office over packages from China

Staff reporter

Sunday, February 09, 2020

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As the coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, anxiety is building among staff at the Central Sorting Office (CSO) of the Post and Telecommunications Department (PTD) in Kingston, about the handling of parcels originating in China that are still crossing Jamaica's borders.

This comes on the heel of a public advisory that was issued by the PTD last week to the effect that all outbound packages to China, with the exception of Fast-Track shipments, would be suspended effective tomorrow, Monday, February 10, until further notice.

In the release it was explained that: “the department has been left with no choice but to cease accepting mail items destined to China and Hong Kong as our airline partners have suspended their services to those countries.”

The release further stated that customers may still utilise the Fast-Track service to export packages worldwide, excep to Wuhan, China.

The Jamaica Observer has received reports, however, that workers at the CSO are growing weary of having to handle inbound parcels from China.

“Outbound parcels are not the problem; the problem is the inbound packages that are coming in from China. Last week some of the workers dem decide say dem nah cut [open] nuh more bags coming from China,” a source told the Sunday Observer.

“But dem say these packages coming in now is from December, so it nah trouble them,” the source added.

Since news broke of the spread of the coronavirus, it was said that workers at CSO have complained about having to handle inbound mail from China, which prompted the introduction of new precautionary measures requiring workers to wear gloves and dust masks.

“Week before last there was a memo sent out telling workers to ensure that they wear the gloves and the dust masks. Them put up notice on the walls saying that this is a caution against the coronavirus,” the source stated.

Dust masks and latex gloves were reportedly provided to workers handling all inbound packages, and an image of the notice read: “Gloves and dust masks must be worn while handling packages especially from China”.

Attempts to get an official statement from the PTD as to whether precautionary measures for the handling of inbound packages from China were in fact in effect, were unsuccessful.

However, director of Public Relations and Customer Services at the Jamaica Customs Acency (JCA), La Donna Manning, told the Sunday Observer that packages coming from China were not under any scrutiny regarding the coronavirus.

“While we enforce the regulations and policies at the border, we enforce based on what the regulating authority asks us to do. Anything to do with health for instance, would be the Ministry of Health. At the JCA, we could not on our own decide that we are going to screen or quarantine packages coming from China. However we act, we act on the authority of the regulatory body based on evidence,” said Manning.

Meanwhile, Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton, during a press briefing last Wednesday, outlined that precautionary measures would not include goods coming into island.

“Based on information currently available, this new coronavirus behaves in the same way as other coronaviruses, which means that the normal processing of goods coming into the country would have rendered them safe.

“I hasten to add that wearing a medical mask is not recommended except for those persons who will be in close contact to symptomatic individuals. In fact, it may create a false sense of security that can lead to neglecting other essential measures, such as proper hand hygiene,” said Dr Tufton.

The minister further explained that great emphasis has been placed on border protection and on the preparedness of front line workers.

This includes the training of 329 frontline employees at the Norman Manley International Airport and Sangster International Airport, including Immigration, Customs, Port Health, Airport Police, Jamaica Fire Brigade, Aviation Services, various airlines, and management staff at ports.

Training sessions have focused on the new coronavirus with respect to roles and responsibilities at points of entry, as well as facilitation of prompt recognition of infectious or potentially infectious persons and the implementation of appropriate interventions.

Fifty senior nursing managers and 50 physicians from the public health system across the island, as well as 50 clinicians from the private sector have been sensitised.

To date, there have been 31,481 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, with China accounting for 31,211 of those cases. So far, 638 people have died from the virus.

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