Gov’t not ‘perturbed’ by COVID hike, says PM

( Jamaica Observer) AMID a surge in COVID-19 cases with Jamaica this week surpassing the 5,000 mark, Prime Minister Andrew Holness is assuring concerned onlookers that the Government “planned for this eventuality” and is not “perturbed” by the latest development.

Speaking at a virtual press briefing from Jamaica House in St Andrew yesterday, Holness said while the spike in COVID-19 cases and the number of deaths in recent weeks has caused “great panic” across the country, the Government, by understanding how pandemics work, planned for this outcome.

Jamaica up to Monday recorded five additional COVID-19 deaths and 127 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 5,270 and COVID-19-related deaths to 75.

Of the new cases reported for Monday, 59 are from Kingston and St Andrew, 18 are from St James, 33 from St Catherine, seven from Portland, six from Westmoreland, five from Clarendon, four each from St Thomas, St Mary, St Ann, and Manchester, two from St Elizabeth, and one from Trelawny.

“We understand that this would and could happen and we planned for it. So, the country should not feel as if the Ministry of Health is at sea or the Government is at sea and this is happening, and we’re not in control,” said Holness.

“You will recall that in many of our press conferences we have pointed out that this could happen. We were always trying to delay it from happening. It has happened at this point, and I’m particularly concerned about it happening at this point because this is the point when we wanted to return our children to school. So we have had to take other decisions to ensure that reopening schools does not contribute or drive any further increase in our numbers,” he added.

Notwithstanding this, the prime minister said he is not “worried or perturbed” as the country has the capacity to manage the pandemic.

He argued that Jamaica now finds itself in a similar position to many other countries, insisting that this is the “nature of how pandemics work”.

“What we are trying to minimise at this time are the deaths because every life is valuable and every life is productive for the country, and so the Government has to take steps and measures to preserve lives,” he said.

Noting that the sharp increase in the number of cases recorded occurred sometime around mid-August, with several events taking place, the prime minister said it boiled down to the “consistency and faithfulness of compliance”.

As a result, he said the current islandwide curfew, which begins at 8:00 pm and ends at 5:00 am daily, will be extended until October 7, though acknowledging that the restriction is having a negative impact on production, employment and the economy.

He suggested that it will remain in place until there is greater compliance and COVID-19 cases are under control.

Additionally, the 14-day quarantine requirement for individuals coming into the island will remain in place, he said, while people 70 years and older should continue to remain at home.

The number of people allowed to gather remains at 15, as well as the number of individuals allowed to be in attendance at burials, parties and weddings.

The measures for public transportation are to also remain in place, with taxi operators mandated to transport one fewer passenger than the maximum allowed under the relevant licences.

The latter measures are to remain in place until October 6.

At the same time, the prime minister encouraged employers to continue with work-from-home policies where possible, as he maintained that a full lockdown of the country does not represent a sustainable approach to managing the pandemic.

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