KINGSTON, Jamaica— Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Sunday was flippant in his dismissal of a reporter's question about whether he would reconsider his position of “argument done” and reinstitute lockdown measures to help curb the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases that are now overwhelming hospitals and healthcare workers.
Holness was asked the question on Sunday morning during a Jamaica House media briefing where he announced the imposition of a Zone of Special Operation in south Savanna-la-Mar in Westmoreland, which has been in the throes of gang violence for a number of years.
It was pointed out to the prime minister that the country's positivity rate has now topped 60 per cent and hospitalisations are up during a relentless fourth wave of the coronavirus, driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant.
“Do you still hold to the point that argument done?,” the prime minister was asked.
“You've said it. Thank you,” was his response which came at the very end of the media briefing.
Of note is that some countries with much higher vaccination rates than Jamaica's which is roughly 20 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, have in recent times reinstated measures to help curb the rapid spread of the virus.
But, Holness has since last November stated that new lockdown measures will not be countenanced, instead urging Jamaicans to take personal responsibility by taking one of the available vaccines. While his administration takes steps to further open up the economy, the prime minister did extend by two weeks until January 28, the 10:00pm to 5:00am curfew, while retaining the other protocols, as acknowledgement that COVID-19 cases were on the rise.
However, some doctors have been calling for the Government to go further and reimpose a tighter curfew.
On Saturday, the Jamaica Medical Doctors' Association [JMDA] made a plea for health facilities to commence operating in emergency mode given an overburdened healthcare system, with understaffed and sick doctors as a result of the surge in COVOD-19 cases.
The association has also requested an urgent meeting with Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton to discuss the way forward.
In a statement on Saturday, the JMDA said that while there was an increase in the number of individuals seeking care at health facilities, there was also a large number of junior doctors who are in isolation or quarantine due to the high levels of exposure from caring for patients with COVID-19.
As a result, it said there was an islandwide disruption in the association's ability to provide adequate patient care because they are understaffed.
“Those who remain on the ground currently are getting sick and/or suffering from burnout. It is impractical for us to be expected to run clinics, wards, operating theatres, and all emergency units on a vastly reduced staff cohort,” the association explained.
“We are thus requesting that health facilities commence operating in emergency mode. The JMDA will always prioritise the well-being of our junior doctors whilst ensuring that we efficiently carry out our duties in a safe work environment,” the JMDA said.