MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The fear of community spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is high in this south-central parish, as the Government’s physical distancing measure has not been heeded by people at several locations across the area.
Addressing the monthly sitting of the Manchester Municipal Corporation on Thursday, Mayor of Mandeville Donovan Mitchell has added his voice for there to be a lockdown of markets.
“We need to take this thing [COVID-19] serious. I don’t think some persons seem to think how serious the virus is… Probably if they were living in New York or other states in the US they would understand the situation which we may face.”
Up to Thursday morning, Manchester had recorded six of the 63 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Jamaica.
“Since we are entering into the community spread phase it is very important that we take the necessary steps. Our market, I am not comfortable with…We [mayors] had a meeting with the [local government] minister and I am one of two mayors who said, without any apologies, that they should lock down the markets…There is some bit of comprise as to doing it between now and next week Tuesday.
“When the markets are closed this weekend, there will be absolutely no vending [allowed] on the streets, no vending in the transport centres, and a reminder from the minister — all public parks will remain closed…. Anybody who breaches that, they must know how their pocket stay,” Mitchell warned.
Manchester’s Chief Public Health Inspector Charmaine Palmer Cross is also concerned about crowd control in the parish.
“We continue to have the issues with crowd control in and around our facilities… since the outbreak we have visited [several] food handling establishments. In one day we visited 42 and we recognised that a majority of them, at that point, were not maintaining crowd control and it is still happening today,” she said.
She added: “It is so bad that at times we have had to intervene and call the police just to see how best we can get this [problem] to be controlled. Other public spaces, such as the tax office [and] the post office, we continue to see problems there.”
Last Tuesday the Jamaica Observer observed two police officers enforcing social distancing at the Mandeville tax office.
“Nevertheless, we are in dialogue with the municipal corporation and the police to see how best we can get this [problem] to be managed,” Palmer Cross went on.
Mayor Mitchell said the threat of community spread must be taken seriously.
“If we are going to take this thing seriously about community spread, one has to understand that the persons who sell in the market, they are not only from Manchester, they come from various parishes… It is stress on the health system and for those persons who have to continuously be doing the work of testing [persons],” he said.
“It is very difficult to keep the social distance [in the market], people are mixing and mingling,” he added.
He disclosed that four handwashing stations had been installed in the Mandeville market.
Medical officer of health, Dr Nadine Williams told the audience at the monthly sitting that there has so far been no sign of community spread in Manchester.
“We have no sign of any community spread in Manchester at this time or any evidence of that, so we will be ramping up our testing [because] we have import-related cases,” she stated.
Mayor Mitchell is worried about the potential of community spread.
“These are hard times. When I see some of the pictures from overseas, if those matters are to reach Jamaica, my grandmother would say, is ‘weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth’,” he said.
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