In light of the recent surge in new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, is urging Jamaicans to exercise greater vigilance in preventing the contraction or spread of the disease.
“There is a need for consciousness… for conscious personal responsibility on the part of every citizen,” he emphasised while speaking during a virtual press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Media Centre on Friday (August 21).
Mr. Holness implored individuals to adhere to the infection control and prevention measures of “wearing your mask if you’re out in public, don’t gather in groups of more than 20, maintain your social distance, hand sanitise regularly”.
He further encouraged persons to be conscious about their environment, particularly if they have to take public transportation.
Regarding the wearing of masks, Mr. Holness noted that while there was an effort by some persons to do so consistently, “there are others who really don’t care”, pointing out that “they are the ones who place all of us at risk”.
Additionally, the Prime Minister said there are Jamaicans who have returned to the island who flout the mandatory 14-day quarantine orders, as well as cases of non-observance of the protocols established for some institutions which, he contended, have also aided in exacerbating the increase in COVID-19 cases.
Mr. Holness voiced concern that some Jamaicans have become complacent, and are of the view that they won’t contract the disease.
He pointed out, however, that this is not the reality now unfolding, as evidenced by the 98 new cases reported over a 24-hour period on August 20 by health officials.
This has led to the Government tightening the curfews imposed in Kingston, St. Andrew, Clarendon, and St. Catherine under the Disaster Risk Management Act.
“What has happened now is that the Government has to put in place measures that will have an impact on everyone, because some people are not following the protocols. It cannot all be about the Government locking down, because you are going to have these spikes happening. What has to happen is that the public has to internalise the measures because they work and they work very well,” he said.
The Prime Minister further outlined that “if you wear a mask and the other person wears a mask, the probability of you getting infected, the experts say, is cut by more than a half; if you social distance, that gives you even greater protection if you are six feet away”.
“If you don’t go out and socialize when you don’t need to, the probability of you getting ill… getting infected is even less; if you wash your hands and sanitize regularly, even better. If you have to take public transport, do so with a sense of consciousness. Try to avoid [taking] a very full taxi, even though that might be an impossibility… but still, have a sense of awareness about you and this will help,” he added.
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, attributed the recent spike in COVID-19 cases to an increase in movement and gatherings during the first week of August.
“Already, we are seeing where at least 16 of the confirmed cases are arising out of parties and night club activities,” she informed.
The CMO said interviews conducted with persons in the quarantine areas disclosed that there is no shortage of knowledge about COVID-19.
“However, what we are seeing is that many persons do not perceive a threat to themselves. They believe that it happens to somebody else, and many persons are therefore engaging in activities and not adhering to distancing rules or infection control processes,” she said.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie expressed concern that Jamaicans are still relying on enforcement by the Ministry of Health and Wellness or the security forces to safeguard themselves and their families, rather than treating this as a personal responsibility.
“I remain positive that we can still control this new surge in cases through vigorous case investigation, contact tracing and enhanced community surveillance,” she said.
The CMO emphasized, however, that the public’s full cooperation is needed “in abiding with keeping themselves safe, keeping themselves at home if they don’t need to be outside, [and] keeping themselves at home if they are ill”.