THE Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has called on the Government to make arrangements to protect vulnerable persons who live in cramped conditions in the inner city and some rural communities, making it almost impossible for them to practise social distancing.
Social distancing, which the World Health Organization has newly termed “physical distancing”, has been promoted as one of the best ways of slowing the spread of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.
Local authorities have sought to get the population here to rigorously practise physical distancing, the latest strategy being a seven-day, 10-hour curfew, which started on Wednesday.
But Mark Golding, Member of Parliament (MP) for St Andrew Southern, one of the most densely populated sections of the Corporate Area, is arguing that distancing is not an easy option for constituencies such as his.
Golding stressed the need for a proactive public health strategy to deal with densely populated areas during a digital press conference held yesterday.
“We are calling on the Government and the public health authorities to be proactive in identifying the risky cases — persons who are particularly vulnerable to this COVID-19 crisis, such as the elderly and persons with existing medical conditions which are known to make them vulnerable to serious illnesses from the disease,” he said. He also called for special arrangements to have those individuals quarantined outside those communities, to halt community spread.
At the same time, former chief medical officer and the PNP’s candidate for St Catherine East Central, Dr Winston De La Haye said that while there is still time, the Government must identify spaces such as hotel-type facilities for persons who live in cramped spaces in “big yards”, making it hard for them to self-quarantine if needed.
PNP candidate for St Mary South Eastern Dr Shane Alexis argued also that policymakers must be sensitive to the realities of persons who live in these environments, if the Government wants the buy-in of the entire population.
“We can’t just assume that everyone have nicely air-conditioned homes with Wi-Fi and a full fridge; there are many who live day to day [and] have to go out to survive. We have to make sure they understand that we are all in this together,” he said.
Golding said he was also concerned about the distribution mechanism that underpins the Government’s multi-billion-dollar COVID-19 allocation of resources employees (CARE) programme.
“It appears to be a new distribution system that the Government is trying to set up, through web-based applications. I think that it is a difficult and risky thing to be trying to set up a new distribution channel at this time,” he said, suggesting that tried and proven existing systems such as PATH, poor relief, and the Constituency Development Fund should be scaled up and used instead.
He further recommended that with world oil prices at a historical low, the funds earned from the tax on gasoline should now be used to advance future oil purchases in order to take advantage of the current low prices.
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