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VIDEO: Lockdown not off table

PM warns nation as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness warned yesterday that the country is the closest it has ever been to going into lockdown since the novel coronavirus pandemic hit the country in March 2020.

He told a virtual press conference from Jamaica House that the Government had done its best to balance the economy and the public health crisis at the same time.

“The Government has always acted based on evidence; we have always acted in a situationally appropriate way. We don't act more than what is necessary, so the measures we have put in place have [been] given three weeks for them to work; if they don't work then there will be more measures to come. A lockdown is not off the books; we have never been this close to it, but we are very close to it now,” he stated.

“Your need to party and to be free and to go about not wearing your mask has to be balanced against the need of someone who will be deprived of care because we simply have no [hospital] beds. My conscience is clear that we have done all that we can in balancing lives and livelihoods. At this stage, the equation and the balance has now shifted to saving lives,” said the prime minister yesterday, shortly after Jamaica's first shipment of 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, a gift from the Government of India, arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.

Jamaica saw its third consecutive day of record COVID-19 cases, 878, on Sunday. This was preceded by 527 cases on Saturday, and 723 on Friday. The island has now recorded 26,904 cumulative cases of the disease, which is linked to 454 deaths. A total of 14,301 people have recovered from the virus.

The prime minister said the country is at a critical “trigger line”, with more people dying from the virus, as COVID-19 hospital beds become scarce.

“This trigger line is directly linked to the mortality rate. If people can't get treated in hospitals, it is likely that you could have a fatal event as a result of the lack of hospital space,” he stated.

According to the Ministry of Health, based on the now 32.6 per cent infection rate, four in every 10 people are carrying the virus.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Holness has given an assurance that the Government will ensure that those with 'connections' do not undercut the strict guidelines that are in place for the administering of the vaccine to specified categories of people in this first phase.

“Regardless of who you are in this society, once the rule is set you will abide by the rule; for too long people have stood by and said it is those who know others and who are connected, they are the ones who are going to get through, and the pressures have already started. But I'm committed to ensuring that the distribution of the vaccine does not fall into this category of nationally important goods to be distributed, where people break the line because of connections,” Holness stated.

He also gave the undertaking that members of the political directorate will lead by example, by taking the vaccine, proving to the country that the vaccine is safe.

The health ministry aims to vaccinate 17,050 people during the first week of vaccinations, which is set to begin tomorrow, with 3,290 people receiving the shot.

This first phase of vaccinations is being offered to front-line health workers, the security forces, vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, parliamentarians, customs and correctional personnel, and institutionalised persons.

Just over 14,000 doses of vaccines are expected next week under the COVAX facility, closing out phase one of the vaccine programme. This is expected to be followed by another 100,000 doses in a few weeks under private arrangement; 600,000 in April; and an additional 210,000 doses in May.