PRIME Minister Andrew Holness has chastised Jamaicans who continue to flout COVID-19 restriction orders issued under law, and has said, if it becomes necessary, the country will be put on lockdown to stem the spread of the infectious disease.
Speaking yesterday on a digital town hall meeting on measures being implemented to assist workers and small businesses, he warned against the continued “weak fence” behaviours by some, which puts the entire population at risk.
“I understand the Jamaican psyche. There are many people who will say, ‘Cho, I go through worse than this, nutten can’t happen to me. Cho, is God time. Cho, mi cyaan bother.’ Well, if it were the case that it only affects you, then it would be bad and not so bad, but the truth is it affects everyone. So your weak fence behaviour will cause your grandmother and your neighbour, and people in your workplace to be ill, so we have to change behaviour,” he stated.
Holness said the confirmed cases of the virus in the island shows that the numbers are rising on a fairly flat trajectory compared to some other countries, stressing that what the Government does not want are sharp spikes that could overwhelm the public health system.
In making his point, the prime minister mentioned that Jamaica has 26 cases of COVID-19 in 16 days, since the first case was confirmed, while countries such as Panama — also at 16 days into its outbreak — has 443 cases, and the Dominican Republic, at day 24 since its first case, has 392 cases.
He also highlighted Singapore, which has progressively increased restriction measures along a similar path as Jamaica, and in 64 days, that country has recorded 641 cases of COVID-19.
“If you look at, for example Panama and the Dominican Republic, you will see what I have always been saying, where you’re going to enter a phase where numbers will rise. What we don’t want is for the numbers to rise as sharply as they’re rising in these countries,” he explained.
Holness said many factors could cause the numbers to increase, but it essentially comes down to a resistance to behavioural change.
“The numbers will rise if the public does not change their behaviour. In the case of the Dominican Republic, they got a bulk of their cases from a wedding and from a fund-raising dinner that took place. In Jamaica, we have a cluster that resulted from a funeral, [but] it was at the start of the epidemic when people didn’t know. Now the Government has paid great attention to providing you with the information so that you know,” he stressed.
Turning to the profile of the outbreak in China, he said new cases started to rise rapidly in January, and even with a lockdown in that same month, the virus spread did not peak until a month later.
“So going into a lockdown with the most extreme measures, it would still take some time to bring the epidemic under control. You would be looking at several weeks before you would have this under control. To come totally out of the epidemic, looking at China’s progression, it’s not until around the 15th of March to present that we are seeing China having cases that are below 50 per day,” he explained.
The prime minister emphasised that even with Jamaica having closed its borders for now, if countries around it do not get their outbreak under control, there could be a resurgence of imported cases.
“So we are paying close attention to what happens in New York, Miami, the United Kingdom, and Canada, where we have a large inflow of our visitors and citizens who come [here]… so there are a lot of moving parts,” he said.
Holness said, too, that the Government is wary of going into a lockdown too early.
“We are not there yet. We are watching the situation very carefully. Rest assured that if it is needed, we will, but Government is monitoring almost hourly.
“At this point what I want the nation to focus on are the orders that we have already given. Let’s perfect the social distancing; let’s perfect the hand-washing, the sanitising of the hands and the surfaces. Let’s ensure that our senior citizens are adequately protected… This is the time when we all have to be our brother’s keeper. All these measures can help to keep the curve flattened,” he implored.
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