PRIME Minister Andrew Holness yesterday declared that Jamaica has reached its breaking point in the management of the novel coronavirus pandemic and announced a slew of measures to help curb infections — chief among them lockdowns over three weekends.

“Since the start of the pandemic we have doubled our capacity in terms of beds, moving from 17 beds at the start to almost 600 beds presently. Our case numbers remain unacceptably high. Our rate of new hospitalisations is beyond our health system capacity. Our oxygen tanks are in short supply. The hospitals are stretched. They are doing their best to take persons in, as many as they can… treat. However, we should note that we are now at a breaking point. We have reached that breaking point,” Holness said during a virtual press conference last evening.

The situation can only be rectified, Holness said, if people who are presently ill recover and are released from hospitals, and the number of patients being released exceeds the number of patients being newly admitted.

“The Government has to act in the public’s interest. But the individual interest and the sum of the individual interests should not be confused with the public’s interest,” he said, noting that any complaints about the new measures are insignificant at this time.

To restrict movement even further, except for essential activities, changes were made to daily curfew hours and three consecutive weekend lockdowns announced.

From March 23 to March 26, curfew hours will remain at 8:00 pm to 5:00 am nightly.

“On Friday, March 26, 2021, workplaces will be required to close at 12 noon, except for essential services, medical establishments, supermarkets, wholesale stores, pharmacies, restaurants, and other food establishments, which will remain open. This is to facilitate persons to conduct their shopping to prepare for the tighter weekend curfew,” Holness explained.

On March 27, the curfew will begin at 12:00 pm and continue until March 29 at 5:00 am. No movement will be permitted on March 28.

Then on March 29 to 31, the curfew hours will run from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am nightly.

On Holy Thursday, April 1, the curfew will begin at 8:00 pm and workplaces, except for essential services, will again be required to close at 12 noon.

Then on Good Friday, April 2, no movement will be permitted.

The curfew will be lifted on April 3 at 5:00 am.

Restrictions return at 12 noon that day and continue through the entire day on Easter Sunday, the entire day on Easter Monday, and ends at 5:00 am on April 6.

On April 6 to April 10 the curfew will commence at 8:00 pm to 5:00 am nightly.

Then on April 10, it will begin at 12 noon and continue through to 5:00 am on April 12.

Workplaces will again be required to close at 12 noon on April 9 to facilitate individuals who wish to conduct their shopping to prepare for the tighter weekend curfew.

“To be clear, on ‘no movement’ days, persons will be allowed to seek urgent medical care and those who have overseas travel plans can make their way to or from the airport. Essential services will still be operational, and in this group I include our fisherfolk, farmers and the media, but I remind those persons employed to essential services who must move on the no movement days to ensure you have your work ID to present to the police,” he emphasised.

The prime minister said the Government has no desire to stifle the freedom of Jamaicans. However, the overall public good must be maintained.

“It’s not the intention of the Government to want to deprive people of the pursuit of their happiness. But it can’t be that the entire society collapses because people pursue selfishly.”