KINGSTON, Jamaica, March 17, 2020 (CMC) – The Jamaica government announced, yesterday, new measures, including fines not exceeding one million dollars, as well as 12 months imprisonment, as it moves to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Jamaica has so far recorded more than 15 cases of the virus, leading Caribbean countries, where there are at least 45 cases, including three deaths.
Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, told a news conference that he was exercising powers, under the Disaster Risk Management Act, and that all the new measures would be for seven days, effective Wednesday.
He told reporters, the measures would be reviewed after five days, so as to make a determination, whether there is need for escalation.
“I know the public has been following what is happening in other countries, like in Trinidad, the Cayman Islands, the EU has announced certain measures, Canada has announced certain measures, and all of these measures are designed to effectively enforce what is called social-distancing,” Holness told reporters.
He said they are also designed to “limit non-essential movement of their citizens”, adding “most countries are contemplating some form, others have gone as far as to close their borders and limit public gatherings”.
Holness said that while Jamaica started its measures, “earlier than others…but that is not to say that we should not continue and, in fact, where we are in the present crisis requires that we continue and intensify our efforts to contain the spread of the virus”.
According to the new measures, all travellers from countries, where there is local transmission of COVID-19, will now be required to self-quarantine for up to 14 days.
Holness said that his administration will also institute a new policy, requiring that all non-essential work be done from home or remotely, in both the public and private sectors.
“We’re now formally requiring the private sector to do this,” Holness said, adding that hospital visits are now reduced to once daily, and to one person, and outpatient clinics are to be scaled down.
In addition, the government is also instituting a new restriction for public gathering, and that should be no gathering in any public space of over 20 persons. Funerals and weddings will follow the 20-person rule.
The government said that bars are to be closed and that there will be restrictions on the opening of bars, nightclubs and other areas of entertainment.
Markets, supermarkets, corner shops, gas stations and pharmacies are being treated as essential, and will remain open. However, there should be no gathering, of more than 20 persons. Markets will be open, from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm (local time) and vendors are asked to pay close attention to the requirements of social-distancing.
Under the order, the state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) and Montego Bay Metro will be required to only carry passengers seated. Taxis are required to carry one less passenger than they are licensed to do.
Restaurants and cook shops can remain open, but should maintain the 20-person restriction.
Holness maintained that the government was not shutting down the country’s operations, but was finding the most effective ways of maintaining social distance, to deal with the COVID-19 problem.