The Government of Jamaica is prepared to deal with the occurrence of the novel corona virus (COVID19) in Jamaica.
Last week I mobilized the National Disaster Risk Management Council, which is a representative body of all agencies and stakeholders involved in disaster response.
The Ministry of Health outlined various risk-scenarios and the plans to mitigate.
Already we have made significant budgetary provisions in support of these plans and later today the Minister of Finance will indicate even further provisions, should it become necessary.
The Government has been very proactive in securing the health of the Nation by instituting travel restrictions, quarantine protocols and informing the public. We have also identified and invested in preparing additional spaces for quarantine and isolation.
The Ministry of Health has been fully mobilized, and our technical and professional experts and technocrats have been sensitized. I have every confidence in our medical professionals, our public health officials and our administrators in managing the situation.
The announcement of a Covid-19 case in Jamaica will no doubt raise concern and uncertainty in the minds of the public.
While concern and fear are natural human reactions, there is no need for panic, hysteria, fearmongering or spreading of misinformation. This will only detract from the efforts of the Government and redirect time and precious resources to correcting false information and resolving unnecessary disputes.
I give you my assurance that the Government will provide leadership and coordination and ensure that accurate and verified information is provided in a timely manner, on all pertinent matters relating to COVID19.
To this end I have established a protocol to advise the Leader of the Opposition directly of any development and will convene an ad hoc bipartisan parliamentary committee, to ensure information sharing at the political level.
The Government will continue to monitor and manage the situation on an hourly basis and make decisions for the public health and safety as necessary as we have been doing for the past few weeks. For instance, the Government has assessed the global situation and has updated our travel restrictions list, to include France, Germany and Spain.
We have strongly advised our schools that normally send athletes to the Penn Relays not to do so. I have advised, through the Cabinet Secretary, all Government officials including Ministers, not to undertake nonessential travel. We are now analyzing the potential contagion impact of some large public events, and as the situation evolves, we will make appropriate decisions in favour of the health of the public.
As it relates to schools, we have made financial provisions, recently announced by Minister Samuda, for schools to acquire hand sanitization products, as schools will continue to be open, unless the Government of Jamaica directs otherwise.
The COVID19 global outbreak has already started to affect the world economy, by disrupting travel and supply chains. Jamaica’s economy is very much integrated into the world economy particularly through tourism. We have already started to contemplate ways to support sectors in the economy should there be a prolonged period of economic fall-out.
While the confirmation of one case in Jamaica elevates the Government planned response, it is no cause for panic We will now diligently activate all the plans we have made, to isolate case, to trace and identify the cases of contact, and contain the potential spread.
Go about your normal business, however, pay close attention to the advisories and information provided by the Government. Increase the awareness of yours and the health of those around you. Until a vaccine is found, the greatest means of control is smart and informed human behaviour. Panic and spreading false information are not smart behaviours.
Every Jamaican must now take personal responsibility for health, hygiene and travel. Washing hands for at least 20 seconds, maintaining a safe distance of 1 metre (3.5 ft) in public, using hand sanitizers, sneezing or coughing in the bend of your elbow, avoiding unnecessary travel. We also advise that you avoid touching surfaces unnecessarily and if you are ill with flu-like symptoms, stay home and avoid persons who exhibit flu-like symptoms.
The world has faced outbreaks of diseases of pandemic proportions before. We now have the scientific knowledge and institutional structures to effectively bring this global threat under control. I have great confidence in my Jamaican people that as a country and a society we will all pull together and act responsibly to overcome this threat.