Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced tighter curfew hours for the parish of Westmoreland, effective Wednesday (December 16).
The new curfew hours are 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily until December 31.
In addition, the general gathering limit for public places is being reduced from 15 to 10 persons; the maximum number of persons remains at 15, for burials; and Grand Market will be cancelled.
The Prime Minister, who was addressing the House of Representatives on Tuesday (December 15), said there is cause for grave concern, as there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the parish, coupled with increasing hospitalisations and deaths.
“To date, the parish has recorded 117 active cases, with 76 new cases last week. These cases are spread over 80 per cent of the communities in the parish,” Holness said.
National positivity rate
He also informed that the parish recorded a test positivity rate of 32.1 per cent last week, compared with 17.6 per cent the week before.
“This means that approximately one out of every three persons tested was positive for COVID-19. This is over three times the national positivity rate of 9.3 per cent for that week,” Holness said.
The Prime Minister also reported that the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital was at 87 per cent of capacity on December 14 and that 15 of 18 COVID beds are occupied. The hospital is also reporting 18 to 20 persons in the Emergency Department waiting on beds on the existing wards.
“Of the four hospitals that support the Western Region, that is Cornwall Regional, Falmouth, Savanna-la-Mar and Noel Holmes, all are now at 80 to 90 per cent bed occupancy. These troubling trends and the strain on the health system require immediate action to mitigate the harm that is occurring,” Holness said.
“The Government of Jamaica has, since the beginning of the pandemic, relied heavily on empirical information for decision-making. This strategic position has served us well and has resulted in us making the right decisions. The evidence is before us that there is a clear and present danger and a need to act. While the Emergency Operations Centre for the region is on high alert and resources would have been redeployed to mitigate the situation in Westmoreland, there is still a severe strain on the capacity of the system there,” he added.
Exercise greater vigilance
Holness further informed that the recent rains have delayed the completion of the field hospital in Falmouth and efforts are being made to have it completed before the end of the financial year.
“I am making a special appeal for strict observance of all the protocols and measures and for particularly those residents of Westmoreland and Hanover to exercise greater vigilance and restraint,” he said.
“We continue to monitor the numbers closely and I want to put everyone on notice that if the situation escalates, we are prepared to put in place even tighter measures,” the Prime Minister added.
Meanwhile, Holness said the Government recognises that the implementation of these measures will cause hardship to the people of Westmoreland, particularly at this time of the year.
“I am using this platform to appeal to the people of Westmoreland, abide by the infection-prevention protocols, abide by the movement control measures (curfew and gathering measures) and in short order, if we keep these two weeks within the limits of what we have set, we could see a reduction in the cases and a remission of the threat,” he said.