PM Holness declares new measures as Jamaica’s COVID-19 cases rise

Prime Minisrer Andrew Holness

A new suite of containment measures has been announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness as Jamaica confirmed two new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the national tally to 21.

Holness, who was speaking at a press conference at Jamaica House on Monday (March 23), said that schools would remain closed until the end of Easter. The current order closing schools, which ends on Friday, March 27, will be replaced and extended.

Additionally, public gatherings, which had a 20-person limit, will now be allowed up to, but not exceeding, ten people. Only special exemptions will be allowed for elderly persons at or above the age of 75 years, who are being asked to always stay home.

All public sector workers 65 years and older are to work from home. The new stipulations come into effect on Wednesday, March 25 and last for an initial period of two weeks.

“All persons 75 years and older must stay home, subject to exemptions that are to be specified and this will take effect on the 25th day of March 2020 for 14 days,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Every person who entered Jamaica on or since Wednesday, March 18, will now be subject to a mandatory 21-day quarantine protocol.

In the meantime, Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton said that the two newest patients are both male.

The first male is a 61-year-old with a travel history that includes Florida, Dubai, Tanzania, and Egypt. The other confirmed patient was a 51-year-old from Westmoreland. The man, with undisclosed chronic illness, was identified through contact tracing, having interacted with two imported cases of COVID-19.

PM Holness flanked by Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton.

Minister Tufton further disclosed that among the 21 cases, 13 patients were men, with the remaining eight being women.

What’s more, 51 persons are being isolated in government facilities islandwide.

Delivering a situation report from Corn Piece, Clarendon which is under a community-wide quarantine, the minister stated that health officials are investigating 216 persons in the area.

Of that number, 29 have been suspected of having ‘moderate to high’ exposure with a 79-year-old patient who returned to the island from New York. He died last Wednesday (March 18). Another 180 community members are being screened for possible exposure. It was not immediately disclosed what was the status of the remaining seven persons.

In terms of contact tracing, Tufton further explained that public health departments across all parishes are investigating 542 persons in relation to Jamaica’s 21 confirmed cases.