Health Ministry reassures public about Jamaica’s COVID-19 readiness

March 03, 2020
A worker wears a mask at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, near Seattle, yesterday. Several of the people who have died in the state from the COVID-19 coronavirus were tied to the long-term care facility, where dozens of residents were sick.
A worker wears a mask at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, near Seattle, yesterday. Several of the people who have died in the state from the COVID-19 coronavirus were tied to the long-term care facility, where dozens of residents were sick.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton is reassuring the public that the ministry is enhancing Jamaica's readiness for "the very real possibility of the coronavirus (COVID-19) coming to our shores".

Tufton noted yesterday that the virus has spread to more than 60 countries, fuelling widespread anxiety.

He also noted that among those countries impacted are three from within the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, St Barts and St Maarten.

So far, Jamaica has had no cases, "However, we can accept, given the rate of spread, which has seen more than 30 new countries impacted in the last week alone, that Jamaica is not immune to COVID-19".

"We can also accept that it is not beyond our capacity to respond and to do so effectively, in the public health interest. Such has been our history in the face of other global disease outbreaks, including H1N1, SARS and Ebola," he said.

Tufton noted that the ministry has put in measures to minimise exposure, including the designation of four quarantine facilities, imposing a travel ban on various nations, and patrolling unofficial border crossings.

Test for the virus

Tufton said that the ministry has developed the local capacity to test for the virus, thanks to training provided by the Pan-American Health Organisation, assessed the readiness of health facilities to meet the anticipated increase in demand on services, and trained and continue to train healthcare providers.

"We have enough personal protective equipment in the island for our health facilities. We also have adequate stores of respiratory medicine for the next three months," he said.

"Still, the success of our efforts depends on the extent to which stakeholders from the private and public sectors and indeed every individual who calls Jamaica home understand that they each have a role to play to preserve public health. We must, therefore, work together to maintain a high level of vigilance in our surveillance and response measures."

Among the recommendations Tufton outlined are: maintaining a distance of at least two metres from persons who are coughing or sneezing; frequently perform hand hygiene by washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or using a hand sanitiser if hands are not visibly soiled; covering mouths and noses with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and then discarding it; and avoid touching our faces unnecessarily.

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