Fisherfolk, bike taxi operators in Westmoreland urged to wear masks

Fisherfolk, bike taxi operators in Westmoreland urged to wear masks

Friday, May 22, 2020

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THE Westmoreland Health Department has embarked on a public education campaign to promote the sustained wearing of masks among fisherfolk and operators of bike taxis as part of measures to contain transmission of COVID-19 in the parish.

Westmoreland accounts for two of the island's 529 cases of the virus, up to yesterday morning.

Health Promotion and Education Officer Gerald Miller told JIS News that officers have observed that a large segment of the fishing community and operators of bike taxis have not been wearing the protective gear, putting themselves and the public at risk. He said that social distancing is also an issue.

“One of the things that we have picked up on is the whole issue of perceived risk. People don't see themselves as susceptible to contracting COVID-19, and hence I think that is one of the reasons why some of them take this nonchalant attitude towards this new paradigm that we are experiencing,” he noted.

Miller said that the public education campaign is aimed at promoting behaviour change with messages designed to appeal to the conscience of individuals.

Fishing villages in Whitehouse, Broughton, and Negril, as well as the Sheffield and Little London communities, are being targeted.

“We have been visiting the fishing villages and have been engaging the fisherfolk, both the fishermen as well as the vendors, as it relates to the importance of wearing their mask and to wear it consistently,” Miller told JIS News.

“I have been observing in the Whitehouse area that among the fisherfolk, there were more than 50 per cent of them, at the time I visited there, who didn't have a mask on, and the ones who did, they didn't have it on correctly,” he noted.

In relation to bike taxi operators, he informed that health teams have been engaging these individuals “to help them to assess their own risk based on the nature of their work”.

Miller shares that residents in sections of Westmoreland heavily depend on bike taxis as a means of transportation, hence the use of face masks by the operators is critical.

“We have been working with them and when I engage them, they do concur that [wearing masks] is something that they need to do, but the transfer of this into their behaviour is a real challenge,” he said.

Miller believes the sustained public education, including a demonstration of basic mask etiquette, will achieve positive results.

“We are going to be constantly monitoring these groups by going to these areas to ensure that persons are doing what they said that they would have done, after we had spoken to them,” he said.

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