KINGSTON, Jamaica March 9, 2020 — Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, says Jamaica is ready to deal with any impact that could result from the potential outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), locally.
Speaking at a meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council at Jamaica House, on Thursday, Holness said the government is always in a state of readiness and preparedness for eventualities.
“It is not only when there is a disaster, or a looming disaster, that our disaster risk management system is operational. Our disaster risk management system is always operational. There is always a level of planning, there is always a level of response,” he assured his audience.
The meeting was convened to discuss the COVID-19 threat and Jamaica’s level of preparedness.
The Prime Minister noted, that while the COVID-19 threat is “a serious situation that requires diligence and an elevated sense of caution”, there is no need for panic.
“There is no doubt in my mind, that the human and technical capacity exists to overcome this threat. We will overcome the threat, and so there is no need for panic and savagery and baseless behaviour,” he said, noting that panic sometimes leads to actions that can have long-term effects on the economy and how Jamaica is viewed, as a hospitable, open and friendly society.
Holness said the government is aware that the virus is a threat that is likely to be an occurrence in the country and has, therefore, been putting measures in place, to prevent the virus from getting on to Jamaica’s shores.
“The Cabinet, from the outset, from very early, responded by taking a strategic position… to do everything, within our powers, to prevent the disease from coming to Jamaica. So, that was [the] frontline strategy – frontline response, number one,” he said.
Holness noted that this prevention strategy, which includes “appropriate and smart policies” of putting in travel restrictions, was necessary to protect the citizens of Jamaica, as the country is not in a position to close its borders.
“We are going to pursue this strategy, as far and as long, as possible, and the objective is to do so, to the point where the world is able to respond with viable treatments, in terms of a vaccine and when we have gained even greater understanding of the virus and its effect and its treatment,” he said.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister cautioned frontline professionals to treat all visitors to the country well, despite the initial fear, associated with the virus.
“You cannot abandon your professional training, the professional ethic and the professional code. Even if someone is ill, it is still our duty and responsibility. It cannot be that the forward face of our society is showing a posture as if to say if someone is ill, they will be abandoned or treated less than a citizen or a human being. That must never define our society,” Holness said.
“Our response must always seek to preserve the dignity of the individual, even if they are not a citizen of Jamaica. There are treaty obligations, and our laws require that, but more than that, our humanity requires that,” he added.
To date, there have been more than 109,000 reported cases of the virus, worldwide, including in the Caribbean countries of the Dominican Republic, St. Martin and St. Barts.