KINGSTON, Jamaica – Prime Minister Andrew Holness has “unreservedly apologised” to Jamaicans who have been placed in quarantine and having to undergo “less than favourable conditions”.
“The issues encountered are completely unacceptable,” Holness said adding that he had asked Health and Wellness Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton and Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of National Security, Matthew Samuda to visit the quarantine facility in question (the Grand Bahia Principe Hotel in St. Ann), so as to get a first-hand view of the situation there.
“Arising from the visit, the Government has already taken some remedial actions and we will do everything we can to completely rectify the situation. A preliminary assessment has revealed that the situation arose from capacity issues and unforeseen circumstances such as weather and a power outage, against a background of heightened panic and stigma,” Holness said.
He acknowledged that the Jamaicans who returned from the United States and Canada under the Controlled Re-Entry Programme had been encountering a number of difficulties at their quarantine location.
In his statement, Holness said that the authorities have “made much progress on several aspects of the Controlled Re-Entry Programme” adding “we have streamlined the process at the airport with the processing time cut by half compared to the previous cohort that arrived on Wednesday last week.
“Many persons spanning several Ministries and Agencies have worked tirelessly to get our citizens home. It is extremely unfortunate that this situation has dampened the happiness that our citizens would have had upon returning home to Jamaica”’
Holness said that his administration “is very sympathetic to the plight of Jamaicans overseas who wish to return home many of whom are under severe hardship”
He said the government “has gone above and beyond to facilitate” their return and this has stretched the capacity of the public health system and frontline workers.
“The reality is that we now have over 600 persons in quarantine and isolation facilities. We also have four quarantine areas in St. Mary, and many other active contact tracing exercises ongoing. This while conducting all the other public health duties. While we are working assiduously to bring our citizens home, we cannot over-extend ourselves. We have to work within our capacity.”
Holness said that out of compassion and an overwhelming desire to bring citizens home, Jamaica is now beyond its quarantine capacity.
“It will therefore be at least 14 days before we are able to accommodate any sizeable additional cohort. I have directed the Ministries and Agencies involved to use this period to explore ways of rapidly scaling up our capacity both in accommodations and logistics to ensure a positive experience for all.”
Holness said that more than 8,000 Jamaicans have already applied to return home through the JamCovid19 system and to accommodate this number utilizing state quarantine would mean an inordinate delay in their return.
“The government is already working towards the development of a home quarantine solution incorporating technology that will facilitate the geofencing and monitoring of persons re-entering Jamaica to ensure that they stay in their designated quarantine area which may include their home.
“We continue to manage this process in a manner that keeps all Jamaicans, both those on island and those overseas safe. We again thank you for your patience and understanding,” Holness said, assuring citizens that his administration “is working assiduously to get you back home as soon as possible.