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Santa Cruz councillor worried about disregard for COVID protocols

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth – For Councillor Ch ristopher Williams (Jamaica Labour Party, Santa Cruz Division), it's a case of 'he who feels it knows it'.

Having suffered a bout of the COVID-19) last August/September an experience he later said he wouldn't wish on his “worst enemy” Williams yesterday called for “strong measures” in and around Santa Cruz to counter an outbreak which last week claimed the lives of an elderly woman and her middle-aged daughter.

While the two COVID-19 victims originated from Fagan Town, a community close to Waterloo and Burnt Ground, just south of Santa Cruz, Williams wants special attention paid to all of Santa Cruz and surrounding communities.

“I think the authorities should be thinking about closing (physical, face-to-face) schools for even a two-week period while health personnel do their work in terms of contact tracing, and so forth,” Williams said.

He called for greater attention by police and health authorities to social events and the behaviour of people at places of entertainment including bars, as well as funerals and churches, and for individuals to act responsibly to protect themselves and those around them.

He voiced concern that many people in Santa Cruz and surrounding communities were continuing to flout safety protocols such as mask-wearing, social distancing and frequent hand sanitising, despite hearing of the latest outbreak and deaths.

Williams told the Jamaica Observer by telephone of an “alarming” experience on the weekend involving a young constituent who refused to accept that COVID-19 was “real” despite knowing of the most recent outbreak and deaths, as well as having knowledge of the councillor's serious illness last year.

“I was shocked,” Williams said. “I had to say to the person 'so you believe what happened to me last year was fake? You believe I was telling a lie?'”

Last August, during the election campaign which ended with the JLP winning a 49-14 majority in the September 3 parliamentary election, Williams went down with severe bellyache, headaches, sore throat, fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. He subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 and self-isolated for three weeks.

In an interview with the Observer after recovering, Williams said that in all his 39 years he had never been as sick.

Yesterday, Williams expressed dismay not only at the lackadaisical approach by ordinary people on the streets but also business operators in Santa Cruz, many of whom he said were providing little or no guidance to customers and were lax with the application of protocols such as the use of hand sanitisers, face masks and social distancing.

He spoke of one case in which the business operator had a hand-sanitising container at the front of his establishment, which was empty.

There has been growing alarm about COVID-19 numbers in St Elizabeth over recent weeks. Yesterday, there were five cases in the parish of 297 recorded across Jamaica over the previous 24 hours, according to Ministry of Health figures.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Health and Wellness reported 27 cases over the previous 24 hours in St Elizabeth of a total 343 new cases across the country.

Parish manager for the St Elizabeth Health Department Sean Brissett told the Observer on the weekend that up to last Thursday nine of 23 beds in the COVID-19 isolation ward at Black River Hospital had been taken. Another six critically ill patients had been transferred to higher-grade hospitals in Kingston and Mandeville, Brissett said on the weekend.

— Garfield Myers