As the government moves into a new phase of the management of COVID-19, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said there will be no more lockdowns in Jamaica. He has, however, warned that anti-vaxxers will face consequences for not helping the island achieve herd immunity.
The warning came during a sitting of the House of Representatives on November 16, where Holness pointed out that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its strain on the health sector, his administration, like governments around the world, has had to reallocate funds that would have been spent on other important industries.
But the Prime Minister stated that it is not feasible for the government to continue doing so. He said that eventually, his administration will have to set a cap on the funds dedicated to COVID-19 hospitalizations and other pandemic-related costs.
“The Government will ultimately have no choice but to allocate a finite set of resources to managing COVID-19-related hospitalizations, including a fixed number of beds,” Holness said.
Prime Minister Holness also said that now that the country has vaccines available, it is unfair to Jamaicans who suffer from chronic illnesses to have a significant portion of the health resources dedicated to unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.
“How do I balance the right of someone to say “I don’t want to take the vaccine” against the right of someone who says “I have a right to healthcare. I have a surgery to do and I can’t get it done because the hospitals are tied up with COVID-19 patients?” We cannot continue to dedicate virtually the entire capacity of the health system to dealing only with COVID-19 to the detriment of other health system users,” Holness said. He also noted that of all the COVID-19 patients currently in hospitals, 98.5 percent of them were unvaccinated.
The importance of Jamaicans getting vaccinated was also reiterated, with Prime Minister Holness noting that COVID-19 is entering the epidemic phase and residents will have to learn to live with the virus. Holness also stated that as the country moves forward, there will be no more shutdowns.
“The Government continues to act in the best interest to preserve lives and to preserve livelihoods as best as possible. We are being very cautious in reopening, and just to be clear, we are not going to shut down again,” he said. “We are entering a post-COVID world where it is your responsibility to social distance, wear your mask and sanitize.”
Just 17 percent of Jamaica’s eligible population are fully vaccinated, significantly lower than many countries in the Caribbean region. “We are still lagging well behind our counterparts in the region and our vaccination rate is still low. So low that it is not having an impact on transmission,” Holness said.
Prime Minister Holness said that the government will continue to gradually relax its measures as it looks to place greater focus on personal responsibility.