Jamaica beefs up border protection amid coronavirus fears

Jamaica beefs up border protection amid coronavirus fears

Thursday, February 06, 2020

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THE Government is engaging critical personnel to beef up border protection as part of its efforts to protect the population against the novel coronavirus.

At a press conference yesterday, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton announced that 329 front line workers at the island's two airports have been receiving training on their roles and responsibilities, on how to facilitate prompt recognition of infection and potential infectious individuals, and the implementation of an appropriate intervention.

Personnel include those from immigration, customs, port health, airport police, Jamaica Fire Brigade, aviation services, airlines, and management staff at the ports.

“The key here is that we are engaging the critical personnel at our ports, [it is] not just about health care workers, it's all the persons who would have an opportunity or reason to interface with persons coming [through the ports],” Dr Tufton noted.

Additionally, 50 senior nursing managers and 50 physicians from the public health system, as well as 50 clinicians from the private sector, have been sensitised, he said. Representatives from the various professional health groups, such as the Medical Association of Jamaica, the Association of Government Consultants and the Jamaica Medical Doctor's Association, and professionals who are supplementary to the medical profession, have also been sensitised.

Meanwhile, a national coordinating mechanism is to be set up over the next few days, which is a Cabinet directive that was issued on Monday.

“The Ministry of Health [and Wellness] will be liaising with the various partners to see to its establishment. When you have threats of this type, it is better to create a national coordination which involves multiple stakeholders, multiple ministries,” Dr Tufton explained.

He noted, too, that the World Health Organization is now reviewing measures to deal with the global demand for medical masks, but said medical experts say wearing this protective gear is not recommended, except for individuals who will be in close contact with those who have symptoms of the virus.

“In fact, it may create a false sense of security that can lead to neglecting other essential measures such as proper hand hygiene,” he pointed out.

Dr Tufton said Jamaica does not currently have a stock-out of medical masks.

“We do have a number of critical equipment in inventory, and we therefore will use those if we have to, and we will restock the supplies if necessary,” he said.

— Alphea Saunders


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