Gov’t trying to safeguard the indigent during COVID-19 outbreak

The Ministry of Local Government and Community Development will be spearheading the implementation of measures designed to safeguard indigent persons living at infirmaries and other locations islandwide against the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Speaking at a press conference at Jamaica House on March 23, Portfolio Minister, Desmond McKenzie said among the measures will be the provision of water by the Municipal Corporations to stakeholders in parishes adversely impacted by drought.

“The Municipal Corporations will ensure that all of the facilities [falling under the Ministry] across the country have adequate water and that communities [in general] which are in need of this commodity [receive it],” he said.

Some 30,000 persons who are currently assisted by the Poor Relief Department, which falls under the Ministry, are expected to be among the beneficiaries of this provision.

Meanwhile, Mr. McKenzie said the Poor Relief Department will be distributing care packages to the approximately 14,000 persons classified as the “outdoor poor” — particularly those 60 years and older, for a period of three months, beginning March 30.           

Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie (right), outlines Coronavirus (COVID-19) safeguards being implemented by the Ministry to protect the indigent, during a press conference at Jamaica House on Monday (March 23). Listening is Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, who also addressed the press conference. (Photo: Rudranath Fraser/JIS)

“Also, there are 3,000 students who fall under the portfolio of the Poor Relief Department, who will receive lunch on a daily basis,” he added.

The Minister said the local authorities will, with immediate effect, be providing care packages to the more than 2,000 persons living on the nation’s streets.

He also advised that arrangements will be made at drop-in centres in each parish, where these persons will be taken for the necessary checks to be conducted, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, to ascertain whether they have been affected by COVID-19.

“We will [also] be providing for them, over the next four to six weeks, a care package, along with at least two meals on a daily basis,” the Minister added.

Sanitisation Programme implemented

In the meantime, Mr. McKenzie advised that special sanitation and sanitisation protocols will be embarked on, beginning March 30.

He indicated that employees and service providers at all Ministry facilities are now required to undergo the requisite sanitising procedures prior to accessing these areas.

Additionally, the Minister said come March 30, a special sanitation programme involving all infirmaries and golden age homes will be implemented over three days, concluding on April 3.

“This will be a collaboration between the Municipal Corporations, Jamaica Fire Brigade, Jamaica Defence Force, National Solid Waste Management Authority, and Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management,” Mr. McKenzie further indicated, while pointing out that this undertaking will generate an additional 100 new jobs.

More rooms at infirmaries

Meanwhile, Mr. McKenzie said the work by the Ministry to identify isolation areas, in light of the COVID-19, are “far advanced”, while efforts are under way to provide more than 30 rooms at the Vineyard Town Golden Age Home and Clarendon Infirmary to facilitate social cases referred from public hospitals.

The Minister also advised that restrictions on visits to infirmaries have been increased from 14 to 30 days, while the restriction on new admissions has been extended to 60 days.

“The ban on amusement licences will remain in force for an additional period, and the hours for the opening and closing of markets will remain from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.,” he said.

 There will also be restrictions on the number of persons who can be accommodated in the salons of barbers and hairdressers at any one time.