Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thanks for joining us on this Sunday afternoon. We welcome Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica from home and abroad who are joining us virtually.
As you know, a number of measures in the existing order under the Disaster Risk Management Act will expire today, May 31, 2020.
The purpose of today’s press conference is to inform the public about the measures that will be in place as of tomorrow, June 1, 2020.
We have been indicating for last two weeks, that we will move into the next phase of our management of the pandemic. We have been successful in our efforts thus far which have been focused on containment of the virus.
We had our first confirmed case of COVID-19 nearly 12 weeks ago and, as at yesterday, we had a total of 581 confirmed cases, of which 290 persons have recovered. Unfortunately, we have had 9 deaths and we currently have two persons critically ill. Therefore, there are currently 282 active cases.
On the first graph displayed on your screen, the solid black line which is now appearing shows the cumulative number of cases (581) as announced yesterday.
The dotted black line displays the number of cases without the workplace cluster.
Unfortunately, since our first case, we have had nine (9) deaths, as depicted by the red line.
The green line that you are now seeing shows that we have had 290 persons recovering.
The final line in this graph (which is the blue line) shows the number of active cases; that is the number of cases less recoveries and deaths.
You will notice the acceleration in our recoveries (the green line) and you will see that the green line is now above the blue line. Therefore, the number of persons who have recovered now exceeds our active cases.
The second graph displayed on your screen shows how our actual cases track against various doubling curves starting from the point that we had a total of 100 cases.
The graph as displayed now shows the:
and 35 day doubling curves.
These curves project how many cases we would have if cases doubled every 6 days, every 8 days, or every 10 days, for example. The shorter the days to double, the steeper the curve and the faster the growth.
Now when we add the solid black line which shows our actual number of cases; you will see that we were briefly on the red line, that is 6-day doubling curve; we then moved across the 8-day (the green line), 10-day (the brown line), and 12-day (the purple line) curves and we are now approaching the 20-day doubling curve (the orange line).
If our cases were to double every 20 days, we would in 20 days, on June 20, have 1,162 cases. The dotted black line on the graph shows that, if we did not have the workplace cluster, we would have been tracking the 35-day doubling curve (the blue line).
It is encouraging that our doubling rate has slowed and the curve is flattening. This has bought us time as we have had a smaller fraction of our population infected and therefore our health care system has not been overwhelmed. We must maintain the measures that we have in place and continue to act responsibly in order to continue to have a flatter curve.
The large effects that differences in doubling periods can have has been clearly illustrated by what happened in the earlier stages of the pandemic if we compared Italy and Japan. On 23rd February, both had approximately 140 cases. However, Japan’s doubling period was close to eight days and Italy’s was initially less than a day. Eight days later, Italy had 1,700 cases and Japan had 254.
The doubling rate is one of the tools that we use to see how well we are flattening the curve. If we each continue to be diligent and exercise great care; that is continue being “strong fences”; then we will remain on a flatter curve.
Like most countries globally, our economy has suffered a severe setback as a result of the pandemic. The Planning Institute of Jamaica recently reported a decline of 1.7% in real GDP for quarter ended March 2020 and has projected a decline of 12-14% for the April-June quarter and 4 – 6% for the fiscal year 2020/2021.
This represents the most significant economic decline we have suffered in four decades.
It is therefore an imperative that we get our economy back to full productive capacity as quickly as possible. As of tomorrow, we are moving towards a broader opening of our economy. I cannot overemphasize, however, that we need to do this in a safe way. We must continue to protect lives while securing our livelihoods.
As we move to further relaxing a number of the control measures that have been in place, we are not relaxing any of the standard infection prevention and control protocols and measures such as wearing masks, sanitizing or washing hands and surfaces, and practising social distancing, that have served us well. We must continue to do all we can to control the spread of the virus.
Please note, however, that if our numbers start to rise significantly, we will re-impose tighter restrictions. Our response to the pandemic will continue to be measured and proportionate and evidence based, and situationally appropriate.
I will now outline the measures that will apply as of tomorrow; the details of which will be in the new Disaster Risk Management Order.
The day to next day, night to early morning curfews will continue in place, starting 9pm tonight to 5am tomorrow morning, day to day, until 5am on the morning of June 14, 2020. In the night time of June 14 the curfew will begin 10pm through to 5am the following morning, day to day until 5am on the morning of June 30, 2020.
Licensed public passenger transport, state or privately operated, are allowed one hour after the end of curfew, (ie. between 9pm and 10pm until June 14, 2020 and between 10pm and 11pm thereafter, until June 30, 2020) to travel home from their last passenger drop off; and one hour before the beginning of curfew (between 4am and 5am until June 30, 2020) to travel to their first passenger pick up. No passenger must be transported in their vehicles during the additional one hour periods allowed for transport operators to travel to and from their homes.
We have not specified opening or closing hours for businesses, other than the general limits of the curfew hours. We encourage businesses and employees to optimize arrangements to increase productive use of time and safe travel.
Effective June 1 to June 30, 2020:
Stay-at-home measures are designed to protect the population that is most vulnerable to the effects of the declared disaster, by placing a duty on them to shelter indoors as much as possible, away from the threat. Aside from requiring vulnerable or at-risk persons to stay indoors, significant effort is invested in public education to increase awareness and responsible behaviour of the at-risk population.
The main risks we are trying to minimize in this pandemic disaster, are:
- The risk of significant loss of life or impairment of quality of life if the virus is widely, and indiscriminately contracted,
- The risk of overwhelming state resources to the point where the state is unable to respond to protect and save lives,
- Risk of significant, long term, and unmanageable disruption to our personal livelihoods and the national economy, and our way of life and society generally.
Everyone, the entire country faces these risks. However, some persons have a higher probability of experiencing the worst of these risks; deterioration in health, inability to get health care, loss of income, and reduced quality of life and death, if they are exposed to the virus and contract the COVID19 disease.
The data suggest that the older population are more at-risk, having a very high probability of dying if they contract the disease. Persons with comorbidities such as, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and respiratory illnesses, especially if they are not under medical control and treatment, have a higher probability of having serious effects or dying from the disease than healthy persons. Therefore, if you are older, say 65 and older, and you have one or more of the comorbid conditions, then the chances of dying from the disease is extremely high.
Under the Disaster Risk Management Act, we have put in place Orders requiring, persons 65 years of age or older to remain at home, only going out once per day for the necessities of life, to include:
- obtaining food,
- medical supplies and services,
- conducting financial transactions and oversight of their business affairs,
- attending a place of worship,
- and for exercise.
The essence of observation of this Order is to limit your exposure to :
- the general population among which asymptomatic spread is occurring,
- public places and,
- public transportation, as much as possible.
In determining your personal behaviour and assessing your risk, the Order is designed to place you in the frame of mind to only risk exposure for what is absolutely necessary and unavoidable to carry on your life.
The stay-at-home Order also applies to persons who may be ill and showing signs of a corona virus like illness but are not confirmed by testing or assessed by a clinical expert.
If you have come into contact with someone confirmed with the SARS-COV2 virus, or you are having a persistent cough, sneezing, high temperature or exhibiting flu-like symptoms or serious acute respiratory illness, then you MUST:
- stay at home,
- avoid the general population and the workplace,
- isolate from your household as much as possible,
- inform the public health system through the JAMCOVID App, and;
- make arrangements to seek medical treatment taking care to wear mask and avoid public transport.
Gatherings not to exceed ten (10) persons extended to June 30, 2020.
Gatherings in public places should not exceed ten (10) persons. For any such gatherings, social distance of the minimum 6 feet must still be maintained. Although distancing and other protocols will apply, there will be exemptions:
- Workplaces, to facilitate the increased number of employees in the workplace; and
- Companies holding their annual general meetings (AGMs).
On this note considering the challenges that companies are now facing in holding their AGMs, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries is currently reviewing the legislative framework to address this expeditiously.
Wearing of Masks extended to June 30, 2020.
Once you leave your home, you must wear a mask fitted to cover your nose and mouth. I have noticed a decrease in the number of persons wearing masks as I move about the country. I have also observed that those who have masks are not always wearing them correctly. Masks must cover nose and mouth. I know it is uncomfortable and I too have my challenges with it, but it is important to wear the mask and wear them properly. If you are caring for someone at home who has the virus or has flu-like or respiratory symptoms, you must wear a mask at home and if you are going to seek medical attention.
As difficult and unnatural as it may be for us, we all need to accept that social distancing, wearing a mask, no handshakes and hugs when greeting others, and avoid touching high use surfaces, and hand washing and sanitization, are all part of the new normal of living with COVID-19.
Restrictions for Correctional Institutions Extended to June 30, 2020.
Restrictions on visitors to inmates of correctional institutions remain. No visitors will be allowed.
Restrictions for Infirmaries, Hospitals and Nursing Homes Extended to June 30, 2020.
The existing restrictions in relation to infirmaries will remain. This means no new patients will be admitted during the period and no visitors will be allowed.
The existing restrictions in relation to hospitals and nursing homes will also remain. Each patient can only receive one visitor per day. Visitors and staff must wear masks, sanitize and follow all the protocols established by the institutions.
These are of course institutions where we need to take great care and precaution to protect the vulnerable.
We therefore continue to examine and standardize the protocols in relation to infirmaries, nursing homes and prisons which all have at risk confined populations.
Specifically, in relation to the nursing homes and infirmaries workers who come into contact with anyone who has been confirmed with or exposed to COVID-19, they must report their contact to their workplace institution and to the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
For infirmaries, the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, on a risk assessment basis, will exercise its best efforts to provide transportation for persons employed in these facilities.
Markets and Vending extended to June 30, 2020
Operating hours for markets, vending in public arcades and public transportation centres will remain. These hours are:
Mondays – Saturdays – 6 am to 6 pm and closed on Sundays.
Barber Shops and Hair Salons extended to June 30, 2020
Restrictions relating to barber shops and hair salons remain. That is, no more than 10 persons are to be in any one area and no more than two of those persons must be clients waiting to be served.
At this juncture, I want to commend persons within this sector who from the monitoring reports have adjusted their operations and have been complying with the protocols.
Business Process Outsourcing extended to June 30, 2020
BPOs will operate in accordance subject to certification and operating protocols as agreed in consultation with the sector. These will be detailed in the Order and as stated previously I have asked Minister Vaz to have direct oversight for this area.
Work from Home order replaced with Work Smart Work Safe orders
No one can dispute that economic crisis spawned by this pandemic requires everyone to act in such a way as to save lives and livelihoods. To this end, having regard to the notice given two weeks before, we will transition from ‘Work-from-Home’ Orders to ‘Work Smarter, Work Safer’ guidelines. The country must seek to maximize its productivity without compromising our health, by reconfiguring how, where and when we work, by integrating technology and innovation in all our business processes, and generally increasing efficiency of firms and wellbeing of workers.
While we are encouraging persons to go back to their workplace, we acknowledge that this may not be practical or feasible in all cases. We must examine our situational realities and determine what is appropriate.
During the period June 1 – 30, persons listed below can make a request to work from home:
- persons who are immunocompromised with underlying illnesses that are not currently under control by medical treatment and are therefore at risk. Such person will be required to present a medical certificate indicating that they are not at this time fit to work in an environment of general access which may expose them to increased risk during the pandemic,
- persons who have no other suitable arrangements to care for their child,
- persons who have no other suitable arrangements for caring for an elderly or ailing family member.
Physical Distance Measures to facilitate workers at the work place.
Where an employer assesses that the employee to square footage ratio will not allow for all employees to have at least 36 square feet of functional space individually to facilitate the recommended social distance, arrangements must be made to allow some employees to work from home or for staggered working hours or some other alternative to ensure social distancing is possible.
Further measures will also be included in the new Order to ensure the safety of those returning to the workplace.
These will include:
- operators of businesses to ensure that markers are placed at a distance of 6 feet apart indicating where each customer must stand while waiting to be admitted or served.
- Social distancing rules continue to apply throughout the workplace. Everyone must stay at least 6 feet apart.
- Masks as stated previously are mandatory.
- A Sanitization programme must be in place; hand washing stations, or hand sanitizing equipment should be readily accessible. To employees and visitors.
- Effective ventilation systems must be maintained
- The Minister of Health and Wellness will give further details on the protocols that have been developed.
Effective June 1 – 14, 2020
A number of measures will be initially effective for a two- week period June 1 – 14, 2020, during which time we will be closely monitoring compliance to determine whether or not they can be extended. Each individual has a role to play by exercising personal responsibility and care in the daily choices we make.
Buses will continue to be allowed to carry only seated passengers. However, after much deliberation, we will be allowing motor cars with PPV licenses to carry the number of passengers allowed by the license rather than the one less passenger that had previously obtained. This is going to be subject to all windows being open, the air conditioning off and masks being worn by all.
Bars, Places of Amusement and Attractions
Bars which do not operate under a village retail license, nightclubs, other places of amusement, public beaches, water and other attractions remain closed. Community bars may be opened from 11am and will close one hour prior to the start of the nightly curfew subject to certain conditions, including:
• no more than 5 persons inside, including bartenders
• no seats (stools or chairs) or tables inside
• all doors and windows must be open
• Social distance and wearing of masks apply inside and outside for operators and patrons
• no more than 2 persons at a table on the outside
• no more than 10 persons (public gathering restriction applies outside)
• no person 65 or over to be at any bar
From the monitoring that has been done, I can report that the bars have been largely compliant with these measures and we will continue to monitor them closely.
Within the next two weeks, we will continue to closely review the nature of the operations of establishments such as places of amusement, public beaches, water and other attractions with a view to reopening them in a limited, controlled manner.
The restrictions on weddings are being modified to allow no more than 15 persons including the person conducting the ceremony to be present.
Places of Worship
Restrictions relating to churches and other places of worship which include the following will remain.
• Physical distancing rules continue to apply within sanctuary/worship space. That is a ratio of square footage to persons (1 person per 40 sq. ft).
• Social distancing rules continue to apply throughout the church spaces. Everyone must stay at least 6 feet apart.
• Gathering rules apply for all other spaces outside of the sanctuary/worship space.
• Everyone must wear a mask.
• Sanitization programme must be in place
The restrictions for funerals will be modified to allow for up to 15 persons of which no more than 10 can be mourners.
The measures stated above for weddings, places of worships and funerals will continue to be closely monitored and examined for compliance to determine how they may be modified going forward.
Partial Reopening of Educational Institutions:
As of June 8, 2020, there will be a partial reopening of secondary schools to facilitate the preparation for and sitting of the CSEC and CAPE examinations which will commence on July 13, 2020. Extensive Protocols to ensure that systems are in place to ensure the safety of all members of staff and students have been developed and shared with the relevant stakeholders.
Update on Controlled Re-entry of Jamaicans
Monitoring of Crew Members from Adventure of the Seas
The home quarantine monitoring solution through the jamcovid19 mobile app is now being used to monitor persons from the Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival cruise ships who are in home quarantine.
These geo-tracking and monitoring measures are specific to containing the COVID-19 pandemic and are limited in time. They are executed by the appropriate officer of the state in law which includes the security forces and health officials.
Let me update on the additional Jamaicans who have returned home since my last update:
Norwegian Cruise Line – 175
Carnival Cruise Line – 240
Disney Cruise Line -198
Jet Blue (Fort Lauderdale) – 112
Involuntary Returned Migrants 28
Charter Flight from Fort Lauderdale 29
Flight from TCI – 23
Flight from Cuba – 45
Therefore, a total of approximately 2,300 persons have entered under the controlled re-entry programme to date.
New Protocols for Controlled Re-Entry
Effective June 1, 2020, we will seek to implement new controlled re-entry protocols that will be based on a risk assessment of the countries from which persons are seeking to enter Jamaica and the travel routes which they will take.
Countries that have a similar management and profile result for the epidemic regarding spread, death rate, infection prevention and control measures, contact tracing protocols and other such criteria could constitute a “travel bubble” that would determine the protocols that would apply to their entry.
Persons seeking to enter Jamaica from countries within this travel bubble may not need to be tested on arrival. They would however be subject to health status screening (including temperature checks, symptoms observation, etc.) Everyone must go through a sensitization programme with a public health official using flyers and audio-visuals. We are also considering including a pledge document which will need to be signed. Based on their health status and risk assessment by a Public Health Officer, Jamaicans seeking to re-enter will still be subject to mandatory 14-day quarantine.
During the period, June 1 – 14, all persons entering Jamaica will be subject to testing except for those entering from a country within the ‘travel bubble’ as defined based on specific criteria. Jamaicans returning from countries not considered to be within our “travel bubble” and returning to high risk communities would be required to quarantine at home with either phone or wristband geofencing.
As of June 15, non-Jamaican nationals will be allowed to enter Jamaica. Protocols regarding this have been established and further details will be provided in due course.
As of June 15, testing on arrival will be subject to the result of the public health screening at the port of entry. All persons entering Jamaica however, will be encouraged to undergo voluntary testing at the port of entry.
As we increase the rate of repatriation of Jamaicans and then allowing non-nationals effective June 15 to visit Jamaica, we recognise that, even with the best will and implementation of measures, there is likely to be an increase in our confirmed cases. We must use our available resources in a targeted way to manage and mitigate the risks. We do not have the resources to eliminate the risks entirely.
As we move into the next phase in our management of the pandemic and loosen some of the restrictions in an effort to get our economy back on track; there will be increased emphasis on every Jamaican taking personal responsibility.
Our public health professionals have provided us with guidance on the protocols that will keep us all safe. It is now up to each and every one of us to be strong fences as we transition to the new normal of living with COVID-19.
Let us give thanks that we have managed this virus and that the number of cases so far are manageable.
My fellow citizens, please do not drop the ball now. Keep following the guidelines and let us get through this together.