Three hundred more people in St Catherine who need to be tested for the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have caused the Government to extend the curfew measures in the parish for most of the rest of this week.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the announcement yesterday as he gave the latest update on the Government’s efforts to deal with the pandemic.
“The Cabinet has decided, based on the advice of the Ministry of Health, that the 24-hour curfew for St Catherine be extended for a further three days commencing at 6:00 am on Tuesday, April the 28, and ending at 6:00 am on Friday, May 1, 2020,” said Holness.
“Those three days will follow as the Order had declared them in terms of which day would be a shopping day, which day would be a stocking day, which day would be a no-movement day.
“So, we will extend the curfew in St Catherine. Today [Monday] was a shopping day and tomorrow would be what is called a stocking day, so that is a no-movement day for citizens. However, persons who have shops and supermarkets, they are allowed movement for restocking,” added Holness.
The prime minister admitted the curfew measures in the parish started two weeks ago without a high level of compliance on the days which were designated for shopping, but he argued that this improved over time with the increase in the number of days allowed for that activity.
According to Holness, the lockdown of the parish, home to business process outsourcing (BPO) company Alorica, now the epicentre of the virus in the island, has helped to slow the spread of COVID-19.
He argued that St Catherine is not really in a “lockdown” but rather is under a 24-hour curfew that allows many exceptions and significant shopping days.
“People can still feel a sense of being locked in and a sense of isolation and it can lead to many behaviours that could, within themselves, create problems. So the Government is seized of the importance of ensuring that these measures are not extended beyond what is necessary,” declared Holness.
He argued that the measures in St Catherine have significantly slowed the community spread of the virus.
“From the numbers we have, from the 26th of April, 2020 there were 196 cases in St Catherine; 150 of those were from the workplace cluster. So it tells you that a large number, a significant number of the cases, this looks like more than 70 per cent of the cases in St Catherine, would be from the workplace cluster. It tells me as well that we have outstanding — in terms of contact tracing and identifying persons who are either positive, or suspected to be positive — nearly 300 more persons in St Catherine that the Public Health Department needs to interview and to do contact tracing with,” said Holness.
He argued that with these 300 individuals still to be contacted there is no way to lift the curfew now.
Holness also noted that several people who have tested positive, and their contacts, have already been taken out of the parish and when the other 300 individuals are taken out, St Catherine should be okay.
“You can see that the public health measures which have been put in place — of doing the contact tracing, identifying those who are infected, putting measures around them — that those measures have largely worked, and what facilitated that would be the 24-hour curfew,” said Holness as he argued that the Government has controlled the spread of the virus in St Catherine to mainly the workplace cluster.
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