The Jamaica government on Tuesday announced an extension of the existing curfew as it seeks to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) that has so far infected more than 5,000 people.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, speaking at a virtual news conference, said that the curfew, which runs from 8.00 pm to 5.00 am (local time) daily will remain until in place until October 7, and urged persons not to seek to violate the measure.
Holness told reporters that the business community and the travelling public have expressed some concerns regarding the start of the curfew, but noted that where the new measures will not affect productivity and output, private sector and public sector businesses should allow employees to work from home.
He said that the government has put in place measures designed to prevent movement “because ultimately the virus does not have legs of its own.
“The virus moves by people moving and if you are moving in unproductive ways, indiscriminate ways then you could be spreading the virus and having an impact on persons and the economy. But then again when we put in place measures to control movement we also have an impact on the economy.
So it is best that each citizen, even without the government exercising control over movement, become situationally aware and makes decisions about how and where and with whom they move,” Holness said, adding that if every citizen were to act with this level of awareness, then Jamaica would be on the road to flattening the curve.
Figures released by the Ministry of Health and Wellness on Tuesday noted that the death toll had reached 75 with five new deaths and 5,270 persons infected with the virus with 3,668 being active cases.
Holness reminded the country that Jamaica is a liberal democracy with citizens able to challenge the various measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus.
He said the government always has to consider rights, adding “Jamaica has evolved a rights-based culture and it has served us well and it is good that we have a rights-based culture.
“Governments need to be able to navigate that, balance rights and this government like all other governments in liberal democracies have to work with that, we have to ensure that we respect the rights of citizens because believe it or not as I speak there are those who feel that putting on a mask and requiring that it be worn is an imposition.
“There are those who feel that requiring vaccination is an imposition. It is their right, it is their freedom to feel this way and the government must respect that. The only way we are going to get to the level of compliance is by ensuring that we maintain this connection, this communication that I pay attention to what you are saying and I respond to what you are saying….”
Holness said he was also being very careful in indicating the government understands how pandemics work given that it had to take into consideration the possibility of deaths and other situations that could occur.
“The country should not feel as if the Ministry of Health is at sea or the government is at sea and this is happening and we are not in control,” he said, reminding reporters that at many of news conferences the government had warned of deaths, as well as increases in the number of positive cases.
“I am particularly concerned that it is happening at this point because this is the point when we wanted to return our children to school. So we have had to make other decisions to ensure that reopening schools do not contribute or drive any further increase in our numbers.”
Holness said he was confident that Jamaica had the capacity to deal with the situation and he was “not in a panic,” adding “I am quite clear we will be able to manage it”.
Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton disclosed that several field hospitals would be erected across the country providing a total of 152 beds in addition to those at the various hospitals.
The government also announced that apart from the curfew, the other measures that would remain in place until October 6 are the quarantine measures for people entering Jamaica; persons 70 years and older continuing to stay at home unless leaving once per day for the necessities; gathering limit remains at 15; burials will continue to be allowed with the strict observation of the 15-people limit and employees should work from home where possible.