CHARGES COULD BE LAID: PM asks cops to probe increase of corona cases in BPO sector

Prime Minister Andrew Holness speaking at Tuesday’s press briefing on the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says he has asked the commissioner of police and health authorities to thoroughly investigate the circumstances under which the spike in COVID-19 cases in St Catherine took place, and to pursue charges under the Disaster Risk Management Act.

Thirty-two new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed by Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton at a press briefing on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total number of cases to 105. The majority of the new cases were associated with the business process outsourcing (BPO) entity Alorica, in Portmore St Catherine.

Holness said: “We have had to take this drastic action. Today, I had a virtual meeting with the BPO association. Not all operators of BPOs are members of the association but they all fall under a regulatory authority, Jamaica’s Special Economic Zone Authority, but the group (the association), I was able to meet with at short notice having just got this information about the situation with the BPO association.

“Generally, from the reports, we have received, most of their members have been following the recommended protocols, they have established protocols which are higher than the recommended protocols. In fact, I was pleased to learn that they have moved 26 per cent of their employment to work-from-home measurements.”

Holness noted that the BPO sector employs close to 40,000 people and so far they have moved more than 10,000 individuals into work-from-home arrangements.

‘But it is clear that there are some operators who were not following protocols, who were not faithful.’

—PM Andrew Holness

“But it is clear that there are some operators who were not following protocols, who were not faithful. What we will have to do as a government, because this is matter of national importance, it is a matter of ensuring compliance, I have asked the commissioner of police to thoroughly investigate, along with the health authorities, the circumstances under which this outbreak took place and to pursue charges under the Disaster Risk Management Act. We cannot take this thing lightly and consequences must fall where we can establish culpability,” Holness said.