More kudos to Gov't for COVID-19 response

More kudos to Gov't for COVID-19 response

Cabinet to consider further measures today

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, March 27, 2020

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Buoyed by a report in the Miami Herald that Jamaica was among the countries in the hemisphere most prepared for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Prime Minister Andrew Holness and members of his Cabinet will meet today to examine further measures to contain the possible community spread of the virus.

The Miami Herald story added to commendations the Administration had already received for its handling of the crisis from the World Health Organization (WHO) and United States Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia.

Yesterday, Government sources said among the measures to be considered are further restrictions on the movement of non-essential people across the island, a bailout for bar operators and their workers, and confirmation of the ending on the quarantine of Seven and Eight Miles in Bull Bay, St Andrew.

“We could decide that only essential services should remain open, but as you have already seen, that is not an option we want to implement. However it is better to keep the number of cases low than try to get the medical facilities up to treat a spike,” added the source as he pointed to the Cabinet meeting scheduled to begin at 1:00 pm today.

On Monday Holness announced tighter restrictions to contain the expected spread of the virus with the regulations tabled in the House of Representatives the following day.

The measures, contained in the Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No2) Order 2020, mandated that schools are to remain closed until the end of the Easter term.

The Order also introduced restricted hours for barbers and hairdressers (10:00 am to 5:00 pm) and underscored that they must not have more than two people waiting in a salon at any time.

Also effective Wednesday, people 75 years and older were mandated to stay home for a 14-day period, and public sector workers, 65 years and older, must work from home, except where granted permission in the Order.

The Order also mandated people who entered Jamaica on, and after, March 18 to remain in quarantine for a further 14 days with effect from Wednesday.

In addition, markets were mandated to open no earlier than 6:00 am and close no later than 2:00 pm. Bars, nightclubs and other places of amusement were also ordered to remain closed.

Adding to the commendations from the WHO and Ambassador Tapia, the Miami Herald, in an article yesterday titled 'While the world partied some places prepared. Will their coronavirus gamble pay off?' also gave the Jamaican Government the thumbs up as it included the island among those in the region that best prepared for the pandemic.

The internationally respected publication reported that while much of the United States mainland was just starting to take serious measures to stop the propagation of the coronavirus, Puerto Rico was putting up bolder barriers faster than perhaps any other US jurisdiction.

“And it joins a small hemispheric club that includes Jamaica, El Salvador, Peru and a handful of others [which] responded to the crisis with forceful measures that seemed excessive just days ago, but now seem prescient,” said the report.

“Jamaica was one of the first countries in the Caribbean to react to the coronavirus, after seeing its first case on March 10. The country barred flights from hot zones, restricted the movement of tourists, enforced quarantines for all new arrivals and cancelled school, among other measures. It also put part of an entire town, Bull Bay, on lockdown,” the Miami Herald reported.

“Now, while Jamaica has 25 coronavirus cases, neighbouring Cuba has 48 and the Dominican Republic has at least 312, according to the Pan American Health Organization,” added the report.

The Miami Herald further noted that some health professionals say such “draconian, isolating measures are the only true safeguard against a novel virus [but] it's still too soon to tell if the strategy is truly working”.

The report quoted Ashley Baldwin, a spokeswoman for the Pan American Health Organization as saying: “As Latin America and the Caribbean is only just beginning to experience cases [and] transmission of COVID-19, it is far too early to evaluate the effect of any distancing measures that particular countries put in place.”

According to the Miami Herald, while the result of the measures implemented by Jamaica and other countries is still in the balance, they have one clear benefit, “They buy time.”

It noted that Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton indicated that Jamaica has been using its measured response to buy ventilators, protective gear, and hospital beds.

“Early in the day we decided it was better to take fairly strong measures — starting with public education, and then graduating into other restrictions in order to at least contain it, even while we prepare our public health system to deal with the inevitable,” Tufton is quoted by the Miami Herald.

Days after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Jamaica, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus posted on Twitter: “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!”

On the same day,Ambassador Tapia said in his tweet: “We want to congratulate the GoJ (Government of Jamaica) and the MoHW (Ministry of Health and Wellness) for its timely reporting of COVID-19 cases and aggressive containment strategy. The MoHW has shown that one of the best defences is appropriate public sensitisation on preventative methods and the importance of early case recognition.”


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