PM warns of tougher COVID-19 measures as cases rise

PM warns of tougher COVID-19 measures as cases rise

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, August 07, 2020

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says the Government has used enough moral suasion to convince people to adhere to the safety protocols for COVID-19 and will now move on to tougher measures, including prosecution.

Yesterday Holness put the country on notice that stricter measures will be coming for churches, funerals, the entertainment industry, beaches and rivers, and that residents — including non-citizens — who are returning home must now submit to home quarantine.

“I think we are at the limit in moral suasion. We will now have to move into another phase of managing the pandemic. We have sought to address it by appealing to the good conscience and reasonableness of our citizens, [but] we have some weak fences — some people who it would appear they would do everything possible not to observe the recommendations of authorised sources,” he stated at a virtual press conference from Jamaica House following a meeting of the Cabinet subcommittee on COVID-19 yesterday.

The prime minister indicated that Jamaica’s infection rate curve had remained flat up to the past five or six days and, while the infection rate remains below the threshold for certain actions to be taken, the recent uptick is of concern.

Meanwhile, areas in St Thomas, which recorded 28 positive cases over the past four days, have now been placed under quarantine for two weeks as the country recorded 30 new COVID-19 cases within 24 hours yesterday. Designated the Church Corner quarantine area by the Ministry of Health, the St Thomas areas of Bamboo River, Church Corner, and Summit Grove will be impacted as they join the Sandy Bay community in Clarendon, as the country’s COVID-19 cases and associated hospitalisations climb.

Jamaica’s COVID-19 tally now stands at 958. Twelve people have so far died.

Holness said the authorities must now send a strong signal to those who continue to disobey the law. He pointed out that the economy has already taken a massive hit and that the Government’s response is based on evidence and must be proportionate.

He pointed out that, while most churches have put measures in place that even go beyond what has been ordered, there are others that are totally disregarding the prevention measures and safety protocols and pointed to the confirmed cases and suspected cases that have been identified among a church congregation, which had now led to the quarantining of the community of Sandy Bay in Clarendon.

According to reports from the Ministry of Health, positive cases have been identified and a number of people tested after it became known that members of a particular church had ignored safety protocols.

The ministry said there was a crowd at the church with people without face masks, and that several individuals were identified with respiratory illnesses.

Prime Minister Holness said measures will be announced next week after he has consulted the various stakeholders.

At the same time, he said, despite the concerns, closing the island’s borders is not on the table for now, as going back and forth with closure could hamper economic recovery.

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