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COVID STORM

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COVID STORM

More than 80 cases confirmed at 3 Missionaries of the Poor facilities which house some of the island’s most vulnerable

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

Monday, November 02, 2020

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The Ministry of Health is facing a major crisis this morning following confirmation that 85 people have tested positive for COVID-19 at three of the nine residential facilities operated by the Father Richard Ho Lung-led Missionaries of the Poor in the Corporate Area.

The fears are compounded as many of the wards at the facilities operated by the religious organisation are the elderly, children with disabilities, and individuals with comorbidities, which make them most at risk in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

The Ministry of Health late yesterday confirmed that 74 positive COVID-19 cases have been identified at the Faith Centre, which has been offering care to Jamaicans in need since the 1980s.

Of a total of 125 persons sampled from the Faith Centre 59 per cent returned positive results, with six being staff members. There were 46 negatives, while five results are pending.

The ministry said it has since engaged the Missionaries of the Poor to put in place a range of measures to slow transmission at the facility.

These include, adhering to the previous recommendation of ‘no one in and no one out’; continuing restriction of movement between residences and the ministries; and strict adherence to the no-visitors policy.

“It remains vital that the people of Jamaica perform the various infection prevention and control measures. At no time should we become complacent as our national efforts continue to contain the spread of the virus,” said Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton.

“We must always wear our masks. We must frequently wash our hands. We must keep our physical distance from others,” added Tufton.

Early yesterday Jamaica Observer sources reported that the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed at a facility operated by the Missionaries of the Poor on October 25.

Two days later, 26 of the other 27 residents at the facility were tested with nine returning positive results, while 17 tested negative.

The outbreak at that facility prompted testing at a number of other facilities which the Missionaries of the Poor operates, and last Friday 50 individuals were tested at a second location with one positive case, 43 negative, and one result pending.

The news got worse on Saturday when the massive cluster was found at the downtown Kingston-based Faith Centre which houses men who are believed to be homeless.

Tests have also been completed at two other Missionaries of the Poor facilities where no positive cases were found, while residents and staff at three more of its facilities were slated to be tested yesterday.

Up to press time there was no word on the results of yesterday’s tests, but Tufton promised that a full report will be made available to the public as soon as that process is finalised

Since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Jamaica the country has recorded 9,131 cases with 209 related deaths based on figures released by the health ministry yesterday morning. The island has seen 4,617 recoveries with 4,185 cases active up to Saturday.

Missionaries of the Poor was started by Ho Lung in 1981 as Brothers of the Poor. The brothers started their work in a Government-run house for the homeless, destitute, and aged, where they succeeded in opening the consciousness of the public to the needs and struggles of the poor.

They continued their work with prisoners and moved into several other areas of support and help to the less fortunate.

Among the facilities operated by Missionaries to the Poor is Lord’s Place, which has one section which caters to individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and another section which focuses on the elderly and people with disabilities.

At Bethlehem House the charity focuses on children with illnesses and disabilities, while Faith’s Centre houses males who are termed homeless, and Holy Innocent Covent caters to children whose parents are unable to care for them, the elderly, and pregnant women who have nowhere to live.

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